Families clash outside courthouse
BRIDGEPORT - It was pandemonium outside the Main Street courthouse Friday morning, people beating each other with bats and torque wrenches while other stomped on cars following a controversial slaying sentencing.
State, local police and judicial marshals rushed to the rear of the Fairfield County courthouse as dozens clashed. At least six people were later arrested and several others treated for injuries.
The violent eruption came just one day after police and marshals thwarted a gang hit outside the Golden Hill Street courthouse. Neither incident were related, police said.
State Chief Court Administrator Patrick Carroll III was at the Main Street court house Friday to discuss Thursday’s incidents that resulted in security being beefed up at the Golden Hill Street courthouse with a number of state police who rushed to the Main Street court for Friday’s incident.
“Everything just went to hell,” said William Hawkins, who was standing behind the Main Street courthouse when the violence broke out. “I heard a bunch of people arguing and then all hell broke loose and they started hitting each other with bats.”
While the pummeling with bats was going on witnesses said several other people were jumping up and down in cars parked in a nearby parking lot.
In the midst of all this jurors, from unrelated cases were walking out the back door of the courthouse.
While Thursday’s incident was gang related, Friday’s eruption was the result of a long-standing feud between two city families, the Rivera’s and the Martinez’s.
Moments before the clash outside, the Martinez’s were in court protesting what they considered a light sentence for 40-year-old Efraim Rivera who had earlier pleaded guilty to fatally shooting 34-year-old Miguel Martinez and wounding his younger brother, Jose Martinez in May 2015.
“This is not justice,” cried the victim’s sister, Jolie Martinez, just before Superior Court Judge Robert Devlin sentenced Rivera to 10 years in prison. “We were forced to agree to this plea bargain.”
“My son was shot in the back,” added the victims’ father, Miguel Martinez Sr. “He (Rivera) should get the maximum for what he did.”
But while Devlin said he sympathized with the Martinez’s, he continued that a jury hearing the case could have determined that Rivera was acting in self-defense.
“Mr. Rivera has pleaded guilty to killing Miguel and this is real punishment,” the judge added.
Assistant State’s Attorney Michael DeJoseph said the shooting was the result of a long-standing feud between the Rivera’s and the Martinez brothers. The prosecutor said Miguel Martinez had just gotten out of prison after serving a sentence for robbery.
Rivera’s lawyer, John R. Gulash, said his client and his client’s family had called the police numerous times to complain about threats and abuse from the Martinez family.