The latest controversy in the race for Hamilton Township Mayor is over a mailer sent out by Republican incumbent Kelly Yaede that smacks her Democratic opponent for actions he took under orders as a U.S. Air Force officer.
Yaede accuses Council President Jeff Martin of “defending convicted rapists” in a trial where Martin, a Judge Advocate General’s Corps captain, was assigned to represent a Lt. Colonel charged with aggravated sexual assault in 2012.
“It is disgusting that Mayor Yaede would attack me for fulfilling my duty as an officer and attorney in the United States Air Force,” said Martin. “As anyone with a basic understanding of military law knows, military defense counsel has no choice in whom they are assigned to defend.”
Unlike private practice attorneys, JAG Corps lawyers have no right to reject a client and must take any case they are assigned, according to the Air Force Rules of Conduct for lawyers.
Martin used Yaede of “politicizing a victim’s traumatic experience for her own personal, political gain.”
“With her despicable flyer, she has proven once again that she is unfit for public service,” said Martin. “Mayor Yaede owes an apology to victims and to the men and women who raise their hands and take an oath to defend the United States of America and its Constitution.”
Martin’s client, James Wilkerson, was sentenced to a year in jail and dismissed from their Air Force with a loss of retirement pay and benefits after being found guilty of abusive sexual contact and three counts of conduct unbecoming of an officer and a gentlemen, according to a Stars and Stripes report.
The Yaede mailer criticized Martin for his closing arguments on behalf of Wilkerson.
“This is one night. I’m not saying it’s a good night,” Martin said. “One night and 240 months of service.”
Yaede told the New Jersey Globe that “trivializing the aggravated sexual assault of a young woman by saying it was ‘just one night’ is Jeff Martin’s opinion and his alone.”
“He chose those words and he owes an explanation to the citizens of Hamilton Township – especially the women of our community, Yaede said. “I’m curious as to how many times a woman needs to be a victim of aggravated sexual assault before it becomes valuable to Jeff Martin?”
Martin pushed back on Yaede’s attempt to somehow tie him to Wilkerson’s actions.
“Like other Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Coast Guardsmen or Airmen, we receive orders from our commanders in defense of the United States and its ideals,” Martin said. One of those ideals is included in the Bill of Rights, that every American citizen is entitled to a defense in a court of law – no matter how we, as attorneys, personally feel about the defendant. “
“To attack me for doing my duty as laid out in the Constitution, is to attack the very essence of what being an American, and serviceman, is all about,” Martin said.