Joseph Andrew Martin, 46, of Martinez, is shown in this police photograph in Concord on June 28, 2013. (Concord Police Department)
Joseph Andrew Martin, 46, of Martinez, is shown in this police photograph in Concord on June 28, 2013. (Concord Police Department)

MARTINEZ -- In 1995, a decade before he was accused of molesting his students, Joseph Martin confided to the leader of a Danville church men's group that he sexually fantasized about young boys, the church leader testified at Martin's trial Monday.

In the first testimony to claim Martin had early proclivities for young boys, the former leader of Zion Fellowship's For Men Only group, which worked to heal men with sex and porn addictions, recounted that he told Martin to quit his career as a Concord elementary school teacher because it was like an alcoholic working in a bar. He said Martin vehemently opposed such an idea.

"I told him, 'If you act out on these fantasies ... if you get caught, do you know what they do to pedophiles in prison? They don't last two weeks,' " Mark Hancock testified at the three-week-old trial.

Martin, 46, of Martinez, has pleaded not guilty to 150 counts of molestation involving more than a dozen of his former students at Woodside Elementary School in Concord. Hancock, who now lives in Florida, painted a picture of Martin as a conflicted pedophile who at one point asked for prayers to help persuade a mother to allow him to continue seeing her son instead of filing a restraining order over some inappropriate contact.

The provocative testimony came after more than an hour of wrangling between the prosecution and defense over what part of Hancock's testimony could be admissible.

Hancock said Monday he moved to San Ramon in 1994 and joined a Bible study class for East Bay singles where he met Martin.

By the end of 1995, Hancock joined For Men Only, saying as a newly married man he found himself with a wandering eye. He soon became a leader. The Danville group was a hit, bringing more than 100 men to the weekly Saturday sessions where parking was scarce and the crowd included pastors, police officers and attorneys all looking to confess sins for healing.

One Saturday, Martin sat in a chair near the back and "freaked out" when he realized that Hancock, his friend from Bible study, was the For Men Only group leader, Hancock testified.

Martin's attendance in the group was spotty, Hancock said, and he reached out to ensure Martin wanted to continue the program and its strict guidelines. Hancock finally connected with Martin by phone.

"He said he struggles with fantasies about young boys," Hancock testified of the 45-minute phone call. Hancock said Martin told him he had a prior sexual relationship as a young boy with another boy but had not acted on his fantasies as an adult and had not abused any boys.

Martin's attorney questioned how Hancock could recall such details nearly two decades later.

"Some things in life are so shocking that you never forget them, and that phone call for me was electric shock," the molecular biology company executive said.

Weeks after the phone call, Hancock said Martin was pulled into a private meeting with himself and the other group leader. They suggested he quit teaching -- Martin had just started at Woodside in 1995 -- and warned he would one day "act out" on his fantasies if he was not healed.

Hancock testified that Martin never denied being a pedophile in any conversations. "He never refuted it once. That's why he was there," Hancock said of the addiction group.

The session ended with the trio praying face down on the floor, but Martin never returned, Hancock said.

The group leaders discussed possibly reporting Martin's comments about young boys to police or his school district, but he had never admitted to doing anything illegal, Hancock testified.

Despite defense objections calling Hancock's testimony "highly prejudicial" and from an "18-year-old contested memory," Judge Mary Ann O'Malley in a hearing early Monday ruled that Hancock could answer all prosecution questions.

In giving her reasons, O'Malley cited a police investigation that confirmed the other church leader called Martin's new church in Martinez to warn the pastor to "be on the look out and to stay alert." .

It's not the first time religion has appeared in the trial. During opening statements, prosecutor Derek Butts shared a letter with the jury found in Martin's car the day he was arrested, where the teacher writes: "Please God, help me to not get arrested, not go to jail, and in the name of Jesus, not be charged with any crimes."

Contact Matthias Gafni at 925-952-5026. Follow him at Twitter.com/mgafni.