Des Moines City Councilmember Anthony Martinelli, charged last year with misdemeanor domestic violence against his current partner and subsequently accused of physical and emotional abuse by two former partners, entered a pretrial diversion program Thursday that could result in his criminal charges being dismissed after two years.
At the same time, calls for Martinelli to resign are mounting, with Democratic Party leaders at the state, county and legislative district levels now urging him to step down.
Martinelli has maintained his Des Moines seat since his October arrest, even as some of his council colleagues asked him to resign and the council voted in November to censure him and strip him of his committee assignments.
The charges are based on a series of Facebook messages that Martinelli’s current partner allegedly sent to her mother, who eventually called the police. Martinelli’s partner allegedly described him shoving her while she was holding their child, hitting her in the face and stomach, stopping her from calling 911 and threatening to slit her throat.
Martinelli pleaded not guilty. His partner, who The Seattle Times is not naming because she is identified as a victim in a domestic violence case, now denies that Martinelli abused her.
Martinelli and his lawyer declined to be interviewed for a Seattle Times story about the allegations last week and didn’t respond to a request for comment sent Thursday.
Following Martinelli’s arrest, two of his former partners, including Burien City Councilmember Cydney Moore, described additional allegations of abuse from Martinelli to police and The Seattle Times. Moore and Kayla Wolfe said they believed their allegations, taken together with the recent charges, indicated a pattern of escalating coercion and violence.
Martinelli didn’t offer comment about the allegations Thursday in Des Moines Municipal Court, as a judge approved his pretrial diversion agreement. The deal requires supervision by the Des Moines city prosecutor’s office while Martinelli undergoes domestic violence therapy and attends a King County program about the impact of family conflict on children.
The agreement also requires Martinelli to have no firearms, no criminal law violations and no contact with his partner. A no-contact order covering Martinelli’s partner will remain in place until a judge removes it or the diversion program is completed, Des Moines city prosecutor Tara Vaughn said. Martinelli has agreed to a bench trial based on the police report if he breaks the terms of the agreement.
Martinelli posted a statement Thursday to a private Facebook group dedicated to Des Moines politics.
“I believe this deal to be indicative of the fact that the charges were never true, there was never any real evidence the charges occurred (everything was based on text messages uploaded to a word document that was found to be heavily edited), and from the start the case had an undeniable political element to it,” Martinelli wrote.
“This is why I did not resign, and why I will not resign,” he added. He described The Times story published last week as a “hit piece” and wrote that he had no comment about it.
In a statement Friday, Moore said she believed the deal reached in Martinelli’s case indicated that the court “recognized something egregious happened, and that there are problems that need to be addressed.”
Moore and Wolfe both said they were deeply troubled about Martinelli maintaining his position on the Des Moines City Council.
“He cannot concentrate on being a better partner, parent, and community member while also trying to be an effective council member,” Wolfe said in a statement. “There are so many people affected by abuse, and it’s not fair to the residents of Des Moines to have to be led by an abuser, simply because he’s let his ego get in the way.”
On Thursday, Tina Podlodowski, chair of the Washington State Democratic Party, said Martinelli should resign.
“Even if charges against him are being dropped as a part of a plea deal, our elected officials are held to a higher standard of public trust, and this sort of thing is completely unacceptable,” Podlodowski said in a statement.
By Thursday, multiple major Democratic and labor groups in the area had called for Martinelli to step down, including the 33rd District Democrats, the King County Democrats and MLK Labor, the largest umbrella group for unions in King County.
Des Moines Mayor Matt Mahoney, who urged Martinelli to resign last year, reiterated that stance with a statement Monday, and state Rep. Mia Gregerson, who represents Des Moines and endorsed Martinelli in 2019, called on him Thursday to step down.
“I am deeply concerned of the recent news outlining additional domestic violence allegations,” Mahoney said in part, adding, “The correct course of action for anyone under these circumstances is to resign such position immediately. This is best for the victims, the city and himself.”
Also on Thursday, SeaTac Mayor Jake Simpson shared a statement from his mother, a domestic violence survivor and Des Moines resident.
“I know well the impacts abusers have on their partner, their children and the community,” the statement said. “I am asking that Anthony Martinelli resign immediately. If his resignation is not tendered, then he should recuse himself from all voting matters that relate to children, women and vulnerable adults.”
Martinelli’s pretrial diversion agreement, called a stipulated order of continuance by the court, covers up to three years. But his charges will be dismissed if he abides by the terms of the agreement for two years, the order says.
The domestic violence therapy required under the agreement “is an evidence-based program that increases accountability for offenders, provides insight into why individuals may have acted violently, and assists in confronting those tendencies in current situations,” Vaughn said.