Local News

Sep 24, 2010 8:47 PM by Ariel Wesler

Hate crime suspect being held on $2 million bail

The man accused of committing a hate crime at a Santa Maria Denny's last week is in jail on $2 million bail.

Officers say it happened around 3-30 last Thursday morning. Curtis Martin, 24, walked into a Denny's restaurant, asked an employee if he was gay, and then stabbed him in the neck. Martin now faces felony charges of attempted murder and committing a hate crime.

Curtis Martin, 24, has been here before, many times before. Court records show he's been charged with three misdemeanors and three felonies in the last six years. They include auto theft and battery, receiving stolen property, burglary, and making criminal threats. now, the attempted murder and hate crime felony charges bring his total to eight.

"Mr. Martin is facing approximately up to 20 years to life in prison," said Prosecutor Stephen Foley.

Robert Hubbard is part of a gay rights group in Santa Maria and says in college, he too, was the victim of a hate crime.

"As I turned around to leave the dance floor, a full beer can came and cracked me in the head," Hubbard said.

He doesn't live far from the Denny's on East Main Street where the victim was stabbed in the neck.

"That kind of just blatant homophobia is just scary," Hubbard said.

Despite the violent attack, Martin's attorney warned people not to jump to conclusions about his client.

"Things aren't always as they appear. Sometimes, it's not always about hate. Sometimes, it's about mental illness and that's what we're investigating," said Defense Attorney Robert Ikola.

The district attorney says Martin's previous record and the seriousness of the charges against him helped determine the bail amount. Meanwhile, Hubbard hopes lawmakers see these attacks as a wakeup call.

"When you make laws that segregate a population and say oh well they're different or we're going to treat them different because of this, it really puts it in people's heads that it's ok to think of people as different," Hubbard said.

In all of his previous cases, Martin has pled no contest, which in criminal cases is treated the same as a guilty plea.

Martin was scheduled to be arraigned in Santa Maria this morning. That has been postponed until October 15th.

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