JOSHUA TREE, Calif. — A jury acquitted a former Southern California elementary school custodian who spent years in prison after being accused of sexually abusing students, his attorneys announced Tuesday.

Pedro Martinez, of Hesperia, incarcerated since January 2019, was found not guilty Monday of all 10 charges against him. An 11th charge was dismissed during his three-and-a-half-month trial, according to a statement from his lawyers.

He was released.

“We are thrilled that Pedro Martinez was found not guilty of any of the terrible crimes he was accused of and is once again home with his family,” defense attorney Ian Wallach said in the statement.

Martinez's lawyers claimed there was no legitimate evidence in the case and accused the San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office and Sheriff's Department of confusion and misconduct. They did not immediately indicate whether Martinez might sue, but said he is considering his options.

“While the outcome was not what we intended, we want to thank the members of the jury for their time and consideration,” the prosecutor’s office said in an email.

An email seeking comment from the Sheriff's Department was not immediately returned.

Martinez was arrested after a woman friend of a student's family alleged that for months he molested boys as young as 6 at Maple Elementary School in Hesperia, his lawyers said.

Prosecutors alleged that Martinez took boys into a classroom during school lunch hours and abused them. They charged him with multiple counts related to the sexual abuse of a child.

A sheriff's deputy who had no special training in interviewing children spoke with three boys who denied any wrongdoing and then “apparently goaded and coerced one of them into agreeing that some abuse had occurred,” Martinez's lawyers said. “That’s the extent of the evidence.”

Further investigation, including DNA testing and interviews with school officials, failed to link Martinez to any crimes on campus, but he was arrested anyway, his lawyers said.

“The allegations of child sexual abuse are extremely serious and we expect authorities to respond quickly and act with integrity and professionalism at every step,” co-defense attorney Katherine Broom said in the statement. “In this case, law enforcement appeared to support this witch hunt and allowed itself to be driven by panic, pride and self-preservation.”


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