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San Benito
April 16, 2024

After jury ruling, lawsuit petitioner vows ‘it’s not over’

The mother who sued the county over alleged treatment toward her adult son in 2014 by the San Benito County Sheriff’s Office said she is not stopping her fight after a district court jury ruled against her family’s case.

A Northern District Court jury ruled in favor of the county Thursday in the case alleging civil rights violations inflicted on her late son and wrongful death. Nancy Martinez and her son Justin Baldasano sued the county after a January 2014 arrest in which they alleged San Benito County Sheriff’s Office deputies used excessive force on him, largely with tasers.

The sheriff’s office applauded the decision Thursday in a statement. Sheriff’s Capt. Eric Taylor noted how the jury trial lasted nearly three weeks. It involved an array of witnesses, testimony and several days of deliberation by the jury, he said.

“They came back with a unanimous verdict that the county was not liable for any of the claims,” Taylor said.

The sheriff’s spokesman declined to comment on specifics in the case or personnel matters with the two involved deputies.

Martinez had plenty to say after the verdict, though. She is considering whether to appeal it further and wants to make a decision on her next step in early August.

“I will spend every dime I ever make my entire life to make sure that they fix this,” Martinez said.

Baldasano died long after the suit’s filing and three years after the incident. His mother retold how he had health issues from being overweight that became much worse after the incident. He eventually had an embolism and died, she said.

Martinez said her son never went outside the house again after that encounter with deputies.

“After this whole incident, my son never functioned again,” she said. “He never moved, anything.”

Martinez recalled that night when her son, who had mental health issues, was having what she called a religious delusion. She said he thought something was coming after his father, and Martinez recalled telling him they could call 911.

Sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to their Carey Way home. Martinez alleged they came to the door with Tasers drawn and repeatedly tased and beat her son.

“They tased him for over 40 seconds,” Martinez said. “They immediately said, sir put your hands behind your back. Justin was delusional already. He was in the midst of a religious delusion.”

She said she recalled her son responding, “They’re trying to kill me. They’re trying to kill me.”

Martinez said she tried turning on the lights to have them stop, but they kept going. She alleged one deputy used a flashlight to beat Baldasano on the head, and that he had to get 15 stitches at the hospital. Martinez said she was “throwing myself between them telling them stop.”

She said the sheriff’s office contended Baldasano assaulted two deputies, leading to his eventual arrest.

“It was the most insane thing you’ve ever seen,” she said. “I didn’t believe it could happen.”

She also complained about her son being moved into the general population when in jail for the incident. She bailed him out two days into his incarceration.

“Went to pick him up. I was talking to him, and he was still completely delusional. All they gave was anti-psychotics.

She said she doesn’t consider herself a victim and wants change, while her husband died about a month after the incident.

“I want San Benito County to stop treating their mentally ill people as though they’re criminals,” she said.

She hasn’t decided exactly how to move forward yet.

“But is it not over,” she said. “No, it’s not over.”

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