'Witch hunt': Lake County sheriff indicted, says charges initiated by 'rival politician'
The sheriff of Lake County, Indiana, was indicted by a grand jury Thursday on a felony charge of resisting law enforcement and a misdemeanor charge of reckless driving stemming from an incident that occurred last year, according to the Lake County Prosecutor's Office.
According to the indictment, Crown Point police officers attempted to pull Sheriff Oscar Martinez Jr. over after he was spotted in a black SUV speeding down Main Street on Sept. 18, 2021.
According to Crown Point police, the SUV continued onto U.S. Route 30 where the driver activated red and blue lights, indicating it was an unmarked police car.
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In a statement released Thursday afternoon, Martinez said he categorically denied the allegations.
"In this instance, it is important to note that these are not allegations of political corruption," he said.
Lake County Sheriff Oscar Martinez Jr. (Provided)
Martinez went on to say that the allegations were brought on by a "rival politician" and they do not prevent him from performing the duties of his office.
"These allegations do not prevent me, as the elected Lake County Sheriff, from holding office and continuing to perform the duties of the office," Martinez said. "The allegations were initiated by a rival politician who has publicly demonstrated his disdain for me and the work that I do for the people of Lake County. As this matter unfolds, it will come to light that this is nothing more than a political witch hunt."
He did not identify the "rival politician" in his statement.
No further information was immediately available regarding the allegations.
Martinez became sheriff in 2017, replacing John Buncich who was convicted on federal bribery and fraud charges.
Buncich, a Democrat, was elected in 2015 to his fourth term as sheriff. But Indiana law mandates the immediate removal of an elected official after a felony conviction.
Read Martinez' full statement below:
"On January 6, 2022, a Grand Jury convened and has issued an indictment against me, Lake County Sheriff Oscar Martinez, Jr. An indictment is an accusation that a crime has been committed which, I categorically deny. In this instance, it is important to note that these are not allegations of political corruption.
These allegations do not prevent me, as the elected Lake County Sheriff, from holding office and continuing to perform the duties of the office. The allegations were initiated by a rival politician who has publicly demonstrated his disdain for me and the work that I do for the people of Lake County. As this matter unfolds, it will come to light that this is nothing more than a political witch hunt. The good people of Lake County are tired of this type of vicious and petty politics. I assure you that I will not be deterred, nor intimidated, by this blatant attempt to undermine my re-election as Sheriff. I will continue to focus on ensuring the safety and security of the people of Lake County and those that visit here. When all of the facts are revealed, it will be apparent that this is nothing more than a smear campaign and an attempt to manipulate the legal system by unscrupulous and shameless politicians. As Lake County voters, you will have the opportunity to hold these individuals accountable.
I have served as a police officer for over 29 years and, for the last 4 years I have had the privilege to serve as the elected Sheriff. Those who have followed my tenure as Sheriff know that I have defended this office from "wanna-be political powerbrokers" and have remained steadfast in my commitment to maintain the integrity of the Sheriff’s office.
Thank you for your continued faith in me as your Lake County Sheriff."