Sebrina Martin, the Democratic nominee for a family court judgeship in Montgomery, released a video statement to social media channels Friday defending herself in response to an APR article last week detailing how she lost custody of six children in 2013 due to “excessive corporal punishment.”
“You’ve read the article, you’ve seen what was said, but you haven’t seen the Montgomery Police Department investigation that says no criminal wrongdoing had been committed, and you haven’t seen the Department of Human Resources investigation report that says there was no abuse,” Martin said.
Martin emphasized that her side of the story had not been told, saying readers had immediately believed the allegations “without one comment from me.”
APR tried multiple times to contact Martin prior to the publication of the original article, including voicemails on Martin’s personal cell phone and at her Montgomery Divorce Law firm. Emails were also sent to Martin’s campaign email and attorney email and received no response for more than 24 hours before the article was published.
“Those statements made in the article are false,” Martin said. “After years of being abused and manipulated myself, I divorced (Michael Martin). My ex-husband told me when I divorced him that he would do everything he could to destroy me, and he nearly did when he manipulated my kids to turn against me. Because when we went to court, no one cared about the police reports or the DHR investigation that said there was no abuse or neglect, no one cared what my witnesses had to say. Once the kids said what they conspired to say, it was over. The Indiana trial judge believed the kids instantly … The kids had been weaponized and trained to spew hatred and to attack me in front of whoever would listen, and they still do it this day.”
The 2013 court document does emphasize the children’s testimony, which is sealed, but it does not completely rely on it. The order references bruising to Jonathan, who would have been around 10 years old at the time. According to the order, this bruising was caused by Jesse Heifner, Martin’s boyfriend at the time, and now her husband and partner at her law firm.
Jonathan told APR that Heifner would often discipline him with a belt, while Martin encouraged it.
“He would hit me with all his force, man,” Jonathan said. “It damn near felt like he was trying to take out aggression, not necessarily for what I did … (Sebrina) would say, like, ‘Whoop his ass.’ Sebrina was the one that controlled everything.”
Judge Robert A. Tomatta of the Vanderburgh Superior Court wrote in the order that the bruising was “evidence of a pattern of domestic violence.”
The court case summary also shows the judge ordered the Department of Child Services of Warrick County to deliver “all of the documents and records requested in the subpoena.” However, the judge ordered that the documents “shall be under no conditions be available for public access.”
According to the Vanderburgh Superior Court, the taping of the hearing no longer exists, as records in civil cases are only required to be kept for three years. However, Michael and Jasmine Martin spoke about an audio recording of Heifner inflicting corporal punishment on Jonathan, which they said was an important piece of evidence.
Jonathan said Friday that he “100 percent stands by” his previous statements.
“I have no dog in this fight anymore,” Jonathan said. “I just don’t think she is fit to judge anyone after the trauma she has put so many kids through already.”
In addition to the allegations in the document, APR also revealed that Martin’s Statement of Economic Interest stated she had no living adult children, despite having two biological children and two adopted children all 21 or older.
Martin says in the video that this was an error that she has since corrected.
“I have many people on this campaign that have helped me, and I did not personally review what was filed on that. I have corrected that,” Martin said. “I take full responsibility for that error.”
The article noted the discrepancy on a Statement of Economic Interest filed December 8, 2021.
At the conclusion of the form, the filing asks whether the SEI filer completed this form for themselves. It is answered “yes.”
APR has also since become aware of two additional SEI filings for Martin, one filed January 21, 2021 and one filed April 23, 2020. Neither identify the existence of living adult children.
Sebrina Martin said the 2013 custody incident makes her more experienced and understanding of family court issues.
“My experience with family law is real experience,” Martin said. “You don’t know what it’s like to go through a divorce until you go through a divorce … what it’s like to adopt a child until you adopt one … to go through losing custody of a child until you lose one.
“I have learned some hard lessons in my life through this loss. I never claim to be perfect, and I don’t have a cookie-cutter family. But divorce court is not a place filled with perfect people or perfect families, and family law — we deal with the messy, the broken, the imperfect, the emotional and the defeated. We do our best for the children, and the best option isn’t always what you think it should be.”
Sebrina apologized to supporters for not speaking out sooner in response to the article.
“I was having to relive some of the worst days of my life, I wasn’t prepared for the level of hate that was spewed out in the article,” Martin said. “To those who called me evil, and a witch, I simply pray that nothing like what happened to me happens to you.”
At the time of publication, Martin remains the Democratic nominee for the judgeship.
But Chris England, chair of the Alabama Democratic Party, said the election has been contested and is under investigation.
“I appointed a subcommittee to hear this contest, which will be conducted according to Alabama Law and the party’s bylaws,” England said.
Martin faces no Republican challenger if she remains on the ballot for the general election in November.