Prosecutors seek contempt charge against former judge accused of stealing from Tuskegee Airman

A former Cook County judge accused of bilking a 96-year-old veteran out of thousands of dollars could be facing jail for the first time.

Retired Judge Patricia Martin has already given up her law license and has been ordered to pay $1.2 million to Tuskegee Airman Oscar Wilkerson, based on allegations she stole nearly $400,000 from the veteran’s savings and retirement accounts.

On Monday, Cook County prosecutors served notice to Martin that they are seeking to have her held in contempt of court for allegedly transferring about $1,200 from cryptocurrency accounts she set up using money she allegedly stole from Wilkerson. Prosecutors a month ago had announced their intention to file the case at a hearing in Wilkerson’s lawsuit against Martin.

The charge of indirect contempt usually is a misdemeanor that could land Martin behind bars for up to six months, the first time that Martin has faced charges that could lead to time behind bars. It was not clear if further charges would be filed against her. A spokeswoman for State’s Attorney Kim Foxx declined to comment, saying the “matter is ongoing.”

Martin, who retired as presiding judge of the Child Protection Division in 2020, requested disbarment to head off a disciplinary investigation by the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, based on allegations she embezzled money from Wilkerson.

In a filing in her disciplinary case, Martin admitted that allegations against her would be proven if a hearing were held, writing “the evidence would clearly and convincingly establish the facts and conclusions of misconduct set forth in the statement of charges.” 

Wilkerson, who died in February, a day before his 97th birthday, had filed a lawsuit against Martin in 2022, claiming she nearly emptied his retirement and savings accounts, investing a large chunk of it in cryptocurrency.

Judge Anna Demacopoulos on April 6 — at a hearing where Martin was in court — ordered all parties in the lawsuit not to transfer funds from cryptocurrency accounts opened with money allegedly stolen from Wilkerson. Demacopoulos in May entered a default judgment of $1.2 million to Wilkerson, after Martin repeatedly failed to show up in court or turn over documents.

At a hearing in June, Demacopoulos suggested that Wilkerson’s lawyers could petition for a contempt charge based on their allegations that Martin accessed the cryptocurrency account just hours after Demacopoulos had issued an order barring all parties in the case from accessing Wilkerson’s accounts, and made eight further transactions.

The petition filed by the state’s attorney on Monday lists only three transactions of a few hundred dollars each on separate days about two weeks after the order was entered. The petition for contempt charges will be heard by another judge.

Wilkerson had been a pilot with the Tuskegee Airmen, an all-Black air unit that flew in World War II, paving the way for desegregation in the military. Martin is the niece of Wilkerson’s former wife and was given control of his finances in November 2020, a month before the veteran was moved into a nursing home, according to the lawsuit.

Martin’s lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Chicago Sun-Times.

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