ELYRIA — When Martin Robinson took the stand in his trial Tuesday, he appeared to have little trouble answering the questions posed by his attorney, but when prosecutors had the opportunity to question him, Robinson’s memory failed.
When Assistant County Prosecutor Tony Cillo began to question Robinson on the events of May 31, when a police officer was shot trying to serve a warrant at his home, Robinson offered the same reply repeatedly.
“What do you remember from May 31, 2018, before 8:38 p.m.?” Cillo asked.
“I don’t know,” Robinson said.
“Do you remember anything?” Cillo said.
“I don’t know,” Robinson said.
“Who would know, if you don’t know, if you remember anything?” Cillo said.
“I don’t know.” Robinson said.
“Are you going to say ‘I don’t know’ to every question I ask you, sir?” Cillo said.
“I don’t know,” Robinson answered.
Robinson, 40, of Sheffield Lake, is charged with attempted murder and numerous other charges for allegedly shooting at Lorain County SWAT team members who where assisting the U.S. Marshal’s Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force in serving an arrest warrant at his residence May 31. Testimony has said that during the shootout, Robinson struck Amherst police Officer Eugene “J.R.” Ptacek with 20-gauge shotgun slug.
During direct examination Tuesday, Robinson told his attorney, Reid Yoder, that he believed his life was in danger during the standoff. He also stated that law enforcement shot first and he was defending himself.
“Someone was shooting into my home, and I thought I was shooting at an intruder, upon taking fire,” Robinson said. “Someone was firing at me. When I say firing, I mean ammo, like machine guns. Smoke. Flashes of light, nonstop. Loud. Pop, pop, pop, pop.”
After the series of questions above by Cillo, Cillo then tried to play a video interview a detective and an FBI agent conducted with Robinson on June 8, a little more than a week after the standoff incident. The problem was, Robinson said he didn’t recognize the man in the video.
In the video, the man stated his name was Martin Robinson, gave his birth date and gave his home address. After the man answered each question on the video, Cillo would pause it and ask Robinson if that was him in the video, to which he responded each time with “I don’t know.”
“That’s your address, isn’t it, Martin?” Cillo asked.
“Sounds like it,” Robinson said.
“So did you have a different individual with long, kind of stringy hair and a beard that lived in the house with you?”
“So that is you,” Cillo said.
“I don’t know.”
“Well, let’s see,” Cillo said. “He has your birth date, your appearance and he lives at your address. Do you want to admit it’s you, Martin?”
“I don’t know,” Robinson said.
While Yoder was asking Robinson questions, the defendant went into details about his past, such as graduating from high school in 1996 and then going to Defiance College where he graduated in 2000 with a degree in criminal justice. He then took a job as a corrections officer working for a private company and then the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, where he reached the rank of lieutenant.
In July 2009, four Cleveland police officers approached Robinson while he was guarding a spot where a car had driven through the fence of a state correctional facility and the officers violently assaulted him. Robinson stated he suffered a traumatic brain injury, experienced post-traumatic stress disorder and physical injuries that rendered him unable to work.
“Imagine one day you are able to work,” Robinson said, appearing to fight back tears. “Then the next day, it’s taken away from you and you can’t provide for yourself.”
Robinson said the 2009 incident changed everything in his life and has caused depression, anxiety and fear of crowds. He also said he has flashbacks, nightmares and panic attacks due to the assault.
He eventually sued Cleveland police and was awarded a $900,000 settlement.
Robinson also said that he was unaware there was a warrant for his arrest for failing to appear in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court. On May 31, he looked outside and was surprised to see his home surrounded.
“These people were dressed in camo,” he said. “They did not identify themselves, at least not to me,” he said. “They drove a tank onto my front lawn. They drove it through my front porch. In my mind they were military, and someone had invoked martial law.”
When officers tried to breach his front door, Robinson said he was just trying to protect himself, and he was shooting at an intruder that was trying to come through his door.
“I wasn’t attempting to kill anyone, nor have I ever in my life,” he said. “It’s an insult to me as a human being, what I stand for, my integrity, my honesty. I have no desire to kill another human being. I have no intent to kill another human being.”
While being cross examined by Cillo, Robinson said he didn’t remember any of the testimony from the trial, didn’t remember text messages detectives shared between Robinson’s girlfriend, Maiya McCoy, and Robinson also said he didn’t know McCoy. When asked about the testimony of his brother, Christopher Robinson, who stated that he talked to Martin Robinson during the standoff and asked him to turn himself in, Martin Robinson said his brother was a liar and “he’s been known to lie.”
After Robinson’s testimony concluded, the defense rested its case. Closing arguments are expected to take place today.
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