For Immediate Release - April 06, 2010

Attorney General Martha Coakley Obtains Civil Rights Injunction Against Couple Who Violently Attacked Children

SPRINGFIELD - Attorney General Martha Coakley's Office has obtained a civil rights injunction against a Springfield couple accused of violently attacking three African American children as they were walking to their home in January 2010.

"It is unfortunate that in the 21 st century, we are still fighting the blatant ignorance and racism that was prevalent decades ago," said Attorney General Martha Coakley. "Our office will continue to protect the civil rights of our residents and prosecute individuals who engage in cowardly acts of intolerance and indignity."

According to the complaint, filed on March 29, 2010, in Hampden Superior Court, the three girls, ages 9, 16 and 17, were walking to their home when they were approached by Robert and Amy Martin of Springfield. Mr. Martin began to yell racial epithets and threatened to let loose his Rottweiler on the group of girls. The complaint further alleges that when the girls tried to run away, he threw a rock at the group and after missing, went on to beat two of them with a log. As the attack proceeded, Mr. Martin allegedly grabbed one of the young girls and tackled her, pinning her against a tree, as she struggled and yelled at him to get off of her.

The order, granted late yesterday in Hampden Superior Court, prohibits the Martins from violating the civil rights of any person in the Commonwealth based on actual or perceived race, national origin, or religion. Violation of the injunction is a criminal offense punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and up to two and a half years in a House of Correction, or $10,000 and up to 10 years in State Prison if physical injury results. The Martins are also facing criminal prosecution by the Hampden District Attorney's Office in connection with this incident.

The Attorney General's Office brought this action under the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act (MCRA), commonly referred to as the "hate crimes" statute. Under the MCRA, the Attorney General's Office may obtain injunctions against individuals who threaten, intimidate, or coerce victims because of their membership in a protected class - race, religion, sexual orientation, or disability, for example - or because they are engaged in a protected activity, such as the right to use public ways or places, the right to vote, or the right to associate.

Since taking office in 2007, Attorney General Martha Coakley's office has obtained 31 civil rights injunctions on behalf of victims of hate crimes, often working in close collaboration with police departments and District Attorney's offices throughout the Commonwealth. In addition to the prosecution of cases, the Civil Rights Division actively provides trainings to police officers, school personnel, and community groups to aid in the recognition and understanding of bias-motivated incidents and how to properly respond.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Adam Hollingsworth and Laurie Frankl of Attorney General Coakley's Civil Rights Division, with the assistance of Ashley Cinelli of the Victim Witness Services Division.