Man accused of throwing acid on Thurston County judge will stand trial in March

It will be several months before Michael E. Martin, the man accused of throwing sulfuric acid at a Thurston County judge in 2012, goes to trial. The trial was continued to March 9 during a Friday morning hearing in Thurston County Superior Court.

The 34-year-old Yelm man was booked into the Thurston County Jail on May 2 and is charged with first-degree assault while armed with a deadly weapon and first-degree malicious mischief. His arrest in the case came so long after the incident because the former soldier was serving a 17-month prison sentence for threatening to kill an Army lawyer.

Thurston County Superior Court judges recused themselves from the case because of their relationships with the victim, Thurston County District Court Judge Michael “Brett” Buckley. Judge Pro Tempore Christine Pomeroy heard the request for a trial continuance Friday morning. Pomeroy previously served as a Thurston County Superior Court judge, but retired about three years ago.

The trial hadbeen set for June 23 but was later moved to the week of Dec. 8 after a series of continuances.

Tacoma-based attorney Sunni Ko, who represents Martin, asked for the extra time to prepare her defense.

“The parties have been actively engaged in resolving this matter short of trial,” Ko said. “But it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.”

Ko said she won’t be able to participate in the trial before March 9 because she’ll be going to trial in a series of other cases.

According to court documents, on Sept. 10, 2012, Buckley opened the front door of his Olympia residence and saw a man who threw liquid into his face, then turned and walked away. Buckley began to follow man, but he felt the liquid reacting to his skin and went inside to wash it off.

The Olympia Police Department responded, and Buckley was taken to the hospital and treated for chemical burns on his face, arm and leg. Officers noted that the liquid had also burned holes in the home’s carpet and stripped the finish off a metal door handle and a wood floor.

The Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory identified the liquid as sulfuric acid. At the time, police weren’t sure who the attacker was.

About a month later, Olympia Detective Chris Johnstone received a call from an FBI agent who was investigating Martin for threatening to kill an Army lawyer. The agent searched Martin’s house and found large quantities of sulfuric acid, plus more sulfuric acid in his car.

Johnstone learned that Martin had appeared before Buckley a few times, and in one case, Buckley granted a domestic violence protection order against Martin, protecting an ex-girlfriend.

The detective searched Martin’s phone and found “to do” lists with entries such as, “Find out where 2 get battery acid,” “Call private investigator,” “Find out who my judge was” and “Recon judge (expletives) home again.”

He later learned that Martin had hired a private investigator to find out where Buckley lived, and to find his ex-girlfriend and his former captain in the Army. Martin also posted a message on his Facebook page warning Joint Base Lewis-McChord personnel to, “stay looking over ur shoulder cuz if u dont u might find your (expletive) face melting off of ur (expletive) skulls.”

Martin was arrested Sept. 25, 2012, for making threats to a federal official and pleaded guilty to the charge on March 20, 2013.

After serving his sentence in the federal case, he was booked into Thurston County Jail.