Older man’s sexual orientation landed him in a Pa. jail for 22 months, his lawyer claims
Leroy Martin spent 22 months in jail on charges that were eventually dropped.
A Pennsylvania senior with Parkinson’s disease spent 22 months in jail after staffers at a nursing and rehabilitation home saw him engaging in sexual acts with a fellow resident at the home, a new civil lawsuit contends.
An attorney for Leroy Martin, now 81, says the sex was consensual, and that his client was incarcerated in rural Pennsylvania during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic for being gay. Martin was released from custody in September after prosecutors dropped the case against him.
“They were hell-bent on falsely painting Mr. Martin as a sexual predator, and with a pink brush, to boot,” said J. Conor Corcoran, a civil rights attorney in Philadelphia who represents Martin.
Martin, who uses a wheelchair, performed oral sex on at least two men during the summer and fall of 2019 while he was a long-term resident of Southampton Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Shippensburg, Cumberland County. Corcoran said the sex between his client and the other men at the facility was consensual.
According to a civil lawsuit Corcoran filed in Cumberland County common pleas court last month, certified nursing assistants witnessed Martin performing oral sex on a 43-year-old resident on Oct. 29, 2019, and later reported it to a supervisor. The supervisor reported the incident to the Pennsylvania State Police, alleging the sex was not consensual because the younger man had suffered a traumatic brain injury.
According to the complaint, that man, whom The Inquirer is not identifying, told police he allowed Martin to perform oral sex on him. “Only because I hadn’t been with a woman in 21 years. . .” the man told police during an interview.
The other man that Martin had sex with, who was also a senior, is now deceased. He had told police he was in Southampton Manor as a patient after suffering a heart attack and woke up once to find Martin performing oral sex on him. He told police Martin had rubbed his penis, over his clothes, five to 10 times while they shared a room.
“I like women. I don’t like men,” the man told police during the interview.
That man told police he wanted Martin to stop but was concerned about him going to jail. The lawsuit contends the man was compelled to speak to police by staffers and only told them he didn’t want Martin to perform oral sex on him because he was ashamed. Corcoran said both the 43-year-old and the now-deceased man were able to give consent and, according to the lawsuit, neither lodged a complaint with staffers at Southampton prior to Martin’s arrest.
“The nursing home lied to the state police that the men with whom Mr. Martin had sex were incapable of consent,” Corcoran said.
Officials from Restore Health, which operates the nursing home, did not return requests for comment. It’s unclear what guidelines the home follows in relation to sexual activity between residents. Corcoran noted that the home’s brochure notes a policy to “treat each person as the individual they are.”
An attorney with a Conshohocken law firm representing Restore declined to comment on the case.
On Oct. 30, 2019, Pennsylvania State Police charged Martin, a U.S. Navy veteran, with involuntary deviant sexual intercourse and indecent assault. He was arrested and taken to the Cumberland County jail, without his Parkinson’s medication, the lawsuit contends, and held on $20,000 bail.
It took four months for Martin to be arraigned, according to the lawsuit, and at least 13 pretrial conferences were continued because of COVID-19. Corcoran said Martin remained in jail the entire time. In the meantime, thousands of inmates and staffers at Pennsylvania prisons and jails contracted COVID.
“There’s some real angels in the Cumberland County jail who looked after him,” Corcoran said.
The Cumberland County district attorney’s office ultimately decided not to prosecute the case, and Martin was released from the county jail in September after spending 22 months awaiting trial. The Cumberland County district attorney did not return requests for comment. According to the lawsuit, the office had contemplated dropping the case against Martin a full year before he was released but didn’t because Southampton and other nursing homes wouldn’t accept him back due to the charges.
Martin is currently a resident of a rehabilitation center in Allegheny County.
Studies have shown that older adults are more sexually active than the public would imagine. A 2017 University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging found that 40% of people ages 65 to 80 are sexually active. A CDC study also found that sexually transmitted infections have also hit historic highs among seniors.
Corcoran said Martin is simply among that 40%, but believes his sexuality was jarring in Cumberland County, a mostly rural county 150 miles west of Philadelphia.
The lawsuit is alleging false arrest, emotional distress, and negligence, among other counts. Corcoran said there is no state law that would allow him to seek damages against a nursing home for discrimination based on sexual discrimination. But that alleged discrimination, he said, is “baked into” the lawsuit.
“...the Plaintiff’s homosexuality was outrageously, egregiously...and unlawfully treated as a crime by the Defendants herein,” the complaint alleges.
Martin is seeking an unspecified amount of damages.
“This was consensual with both men,“ Corcoran said. “If it had been an Adam and Eve story instead of Adam and Steve, they wouldn’t even have called the police.”