Springfield mayor pleads guilty to criminal mischief in lieu of trial on felony charges

Springfield mayor pleads guilty to criminal mischief in lieu of trial on felony charges

SPRINGFIELD, LA (WAFB) - The trial for the mayor of Springfield was scheduled to begin Monday, but he decided to instead plead guilty to a lesser charge and resign.

Mayor Charles Martin was indicted on felony charges of obstruction of justice, criminal conspiracy to obstruct justice, injuring public records and criminal conspiracy to injure public records.

He pleaded guilty to criminal mischief, instead of standing trial. As part of the deal from the Office of the Louisiana Attorney General, Martin must resign within 90 days and cannot seek re-election.

The maximum sentence for the criminal mischief charge is six months in jail or a fine of up to $500.

His sentence was deferred and suspended. He will be on probation for two years, must pay all court fees and serve 32 hours of community service, which he hopes he could spend by cleaning up the Springfield Cemetery. After a year, he will have the option of expungement.

It was noted Martin was given 90 days to resign instead of being required to do so immediately so he can help the town council finish a water project currently underway. The mayor's term would have expired in June 2017.

Martin and former Police Chief James Jones are accused of trying to cover up a DWI ticket in 2011.

Jones accepted the same plea deal in April. He also had to immediately resign his position as police chief. His sentence was also suspended. He has to serve 32 hours of community service and will be on probation for one year. After a year, Jones has the option to request an expungement from the court.

In April 2011, a then Springfield police officer pulled over a woman named Tyra Jones for allegedly driving the wrong way along LA 22 in Livingston Parish. Records show Jones blew twice over the legal limit at 0.185. 

According to investigators, at the request of the mayor, the chief asked his officer to reduce the DWI charge to a lesser charge of reckless operation. Fearing retaliation, the officer reduced the DWI to a reckless operation citation. 

A year later, in 2012, the mayor and police chief were indicted on felony charges.

While some people say both Martin and Jones both got off with a slap on the wrist, there are several people in Springfield who respect Martin. He has never been in trouble with the law prior to this incident and people continue to re-elect him. For that reason, Martin says that he appreciates everyone's support. He also apologized because he is so highly regarded in his own town.

"I know it was not the right thing to do. We discovered that it was an error in judgement and I apologize for my actions," says Martin.

When asked if he would do it again, Martin replied, "I would not have done it. I would have followed the proper procedure which would have been to speak to the district attorney."

Copyright 2015 WAFB. All rights reserved.