MARTINEZ -- The 14 boys who accused former Concord elementary schoolteacher Joseph Martin of molestation are similar to the girls in the Salem witch trials who falsely accused women of witchcraft in the late 17th century, Martin's defense attorney said in his closing arguments Tuesday.

Rumors were swirling from students, teachers, parents and media, creating a "lynch mob mentality," defense attorney Patrick Clancy told the jury. He singled out John Doe 4 as the instigator who spread the rumors that tainted most of the boys' allegations, along with a Concord police detective he described as incompetent and a leading interviewer.

Clancy said a "confirmatory bias" led those individuals to look for crimes and ask questions until they got the answers they wanted.

Joseph Andrew Martin, 45, of Martinez, is shown in this police photograph in Concord, Calif., on Friday, June 28, 2013. (Concord Police Department)
Joseph Andrew Martin, 45, of Martinez, is shown in this police photograph in Concord, Calif., on Friday, June 28, 2013. (Concord Police Department)

In fact, Clancy argued, Martin, 46, of Martinez, learned to be an affectionate teacher from his own first-grade teacher, and his students benefited from his benevolent pats on the back, collarbone and shoulder; and hugs.

"It's fine if you're a woman but not if you're a man," Clancy said. "He walked right into being stereotyped."

Martin is charged with 116 molestation counts involving 14 male former students. Over the weekend, the prosecutor dropped 34 counts against him.

Prosecutor Derek Butts called the theory that more than a dozen students shared similar allegations based on rumors a "gross oversimplification."


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To discount the evidence from the boys, along with computer forensics, journal entries and former church member testimony, Butts said: "You'd have to say this is the most unluckiest man alive to encounter this perfect storm."

Clancy identified the John Does as members of the "lawsuit club," saying the civil suits filed against Martin and the Mt. Diablo school district over its handling of the teacher influenced how the boys would testify. He also described how the main allegation of rubbing the nipples of boys' bare chests at Woodside Elementary School can easily be misinterpreted.

"We're talking about moving a hand a couple of inches; that's what this case comes down to," Clancy said.

And he said those who witnessed the alleged abuse, which many boys claimed happened during circle time in class, were mostly the other accusers. He hinted that the one girl, his own witness, who testified that she saw Martin put his hand down the shirt of one of the John Does was trying to protect her carpool buddy.

"You'll have to make that decision of whether that's reliable," Clancy said.

Butts argued in his final address to the jury that this one girl's testimony "torpedoes his case." He also stressed that 11 of the 14 boys had been interviewed before the first media reports were published when Martin was arrested in June 2013.

Both sides argued whether Martin had a sexual affinity for young boys. Clancy painted former church colleague Mark Hancock -- who helped run For Men Only, a group to fight sex and porn addictions -- as a religious zealot who believed God gave him powers of discernment and that he could cure men of homosexuality. Hancock had testified that Martin joined his group and told him in the 1990s that he had sexual fantasies about boys.

Clancy summed up his arguments Tuesday: "His students succeeded not in spite of his affection for them but because of his affection for them."

Judge Mary Ann O'Malley read the jury instructions late Tuesday, and the six women and six men are expected to begin deliberating Wednesday.

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