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Former House candidate is sentenced to 5 years in prison

Chayne Marten pleads no contest to endangering a minor in 2016 sexual abuse case

Chayne Marten, a former state House candidate, is taken into custody by sheriff’s deputies Wednesday morning after he was sentenced to a five-year prison term for endangering the welfare of a minor. The Maui News / LILA FUJIMOTO photo

WAILUKU — Former Republican state House candidate Chayne Marten was sentenced Wednesday to a five-year prison term, with a judge saying he believed the victim who described being sexually abused by Marten for years.

“You can be both a good person and a bad person at the same time,” 2nd Circuit Judge Richard Bissen said, after family members described Marten as a good father, husband and church-going Christian. “You can be a volunteer at church and in your community. You can be the Boy Scout leader, you can be the priest of your church, and still be a child molester.”

Marten, 67, of Napili had pleaded no contest to first-degree endangering the welfare of a minor, with the prosecution dismissing sexual assault and other charges in exchange for his plea.

In October 2016, Marten was indicted on charges of five counts of first-degree sexual assault, three counts of third-degree sexual assault and second-degree endangering the welfare of a minor. The charges alleged sexual contact and penetration of the girl from December 2007 to December 2010, while she was between ages 7 and 10. The girl is related to Marten.

The victim said Marten told her she was his favorite and gave her gifts while he started exposing himself to her, then groping her and forcing her into sexual acts.

She reported he would play a “creepy crawly game” that started with tickling her feet and led to sexually touching her, said Deputy Prosecutor Annalisa Bernard Lee.

“He said to me, ‘This is our secret. I can trust you, right?’ “ the victim said in court. “I was scared for a long time to say anything because he made it feel like it was my fault.”

The sexual abuse slowed down, then stopped when she was 10, the victim said.

When she confronted Marten, “he would just deny it,” saying the girl was confused or making it up, she said.

She said Marten’s wife would say, “Why can’t you just forgive and forget?”

“They definitely didn’t have my best interests in mind,” the victim said. “Obviously, I wanted to tell someone because I knew it didn’t feel right and eventually I did.”

She said she still has trouble sleeping and “horrible night terrors of the abuse.”

“What he did to me is irreversible,” she said. “No amount of therapy can erase all the pain he caused me. Yes, I will get better, but I never will be able to undo what he did.”

With a college education, real estate licenses in California and Hawaii, several homes and runs for elected office, Marten “looks very good on paper,” Bernard Lee said.

“From the outside, the defendant appears to be a smart, successful person in our community. From the outside, the defendant appears to be a good Christian man,” she said. “But no one knew what the defendant did behind closed doors . . . when no one was looking.”

She said the victim had been home-schooled and didn’t have friends or outside contact until she began attending public school in the 8th grade and reported what happened.

While the prosecution sought the prison term, Marten asked to be placed on probation after previously spending more than seven months in jail.

Marten has no prior criminal history, said his attorney, William Harrison.

“The rest of his life he’s going to be painted as a sexual predator, where there’s no other evidence other than the statement of the complainant that he committed this act,” Harrison said.

He said Marten had entered the plea because he didn’t want to put the girl or his family through a trial.

Saying he had seen the victim once in the last few years, Marten asked if he could look at her in the courtroom gallery Wednesday.

After consulting with the girl, Bernard Lee said no.

“I miss her very much,” Marten said. “I have people ask me why would she lie. I wish I had an answer to this.

“As truthful as I can be, I’ve never sexually assaulted anyone in my life.”

Bernard Lee said that after the allegations surfaced, a Mainland relative of Marten reported he had done the same thing to her when she was 7 years old.

Harrison said the relative’s claims came during a legal dispute over property.

Judge Bissen noted that the recent case came to light because “the victim was cutting herself at school and the counselor witnessed that and began asking questions.”

“This wasn’t a situation that was triggered by the child being disciplined in the home,” he said. “This child was hurting herself, nobody else. And that’s why the teachers got involved, and that’s why the police got involved.”

After reading Marten’s letter and the victim’s statement, Bissen told Marten, “your image is more important to you than the truth that happened in this case.”

Marten’s family, who spoke in court for him, looks up to him, Bissen said.

“They have a great deal of love for you,” he said. “The Chayne Marten they knew would never do something like this. They will never be convinced.”

Bissen said he was sentencing Marten to prison, in part “based on the harm that was caused to this victim.”

“I think you made the mistake, Mr. Marten, that most pedophiles make,” the judge said. “You forgot that children grow up. You forgot that they find their voices. You forgot that they have memories. And that at some point, they’re going to meet somebody who will tell them, ‘What’s happening in your home is not right, is not normal.’

“Until they know that, they think this must be happening to every child.”

Bissen said the victim had “spoken very clearly, very specifically and in my opinion, very consistently.”

“I believe her,” Bissen said.

“I think you underestimated your victim,” he told Marten. “You underestimated that she would say anything at all. You underestimated that she would have that courage to do so. But the biggest part you underestimated is who would believe her.”

Marten was ordered to participate in the Hawaii Sex Offender Treatment Program and to have no contact with the victim. He also was ordered to have no contact with any minor child and not live in the same residence as any minor child.

Marten’s son Chase contacted The Maui News on Wednesday evening and said that his “dad is a great father, and he has always tried to help the community all his life.”

He noted that his father worked for American Red Cross and has not committed a crime in his life.

“My whole family, we all know for a fact that this did not happen,” he said.

In the 2016 general election, Marten ran for the state House District 10 seat (West Maui, Maalaea, north Kihei), losing to incumbent Rep. Angus McKelvey, a Democrat. Mc-Kelvey received 4,573 votes to Marten’s 1,643.

He ran in 2018 and lost again to McKelvey, who garnered 3,729 votes to Marten’s 1,346 votes in a three-way race.

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at lfujimoto@mauinews.com.

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