Former NFL lineman Jonathan Martin has long been candid about his unhappiness in life and work, detailing in social media his failure to fit in at an elite Los Angeles prep school, alleged bullying by former Miami Dolphins teammates and suicide attempts.
Prosecutors say his personal troubles took a more disturbing turn last month, accusing him of posting an Instagram message that threatened former Dolphins teammates and classmates at Harvard-Westlake School. His attorney insists the post was a plea for help, characterizing it more as a suicide note and insisting that no one else was at risk.
On Tuesday, Martin, 28, dressed in a dark blue suit with white shirt and striped tie, appeared in a Van Nuys courtroom and entered a not guilty plea to four felony counts of making criminal threats.
He also pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor count of possessing a loaded firearm in public.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Neetu S. Badhan-Smith set bail at $210,000, citing his potential danger to the victims and public at large. But she rejected a request by prosecutors to install an electronic monitoring device on Martin. Instead, the judge ordered Martin to stay away from his four alleged victims and Harvard-Westlake’s campuses.
As a condition of bail, the judge also ordered Martin to continue treatment at an inpatient mental health program and abstain from consuming alcohol.
The February post read, “When you’re a bully victim & a coward, your options are suicide, or revenge.” The image of a shotgun showed “#MiamiDolphins” on the handle and “#HarvardWestlake” on the barrel.
The post included the Twitter handles of high school classmates James Dunleavy and Durall “T.J.” Taylor, and former Dolphins teammates Richie Incognito and Mike Pouncey. Dunleavy is the son of former NBA coach Mike Dunleavy and went on to play basketball at USC.
Martin’s attorney, Winston McKesson, disputed the intent of the post.
“I believe the facts do not justify the ... criminal threats charges,” said McKesson, noting the language had no clear threat. “The law requires the statement be unequivocal. This was more than anything a suicide note.”
McKesson said Martin knew he needed help and decided to enter a medical program for treatment.
“Nobody was at risk except Jonathan,” McKesson said. “He never tried to contact anybody. He checked himself in for treatment.”
McKesson said his client is a gifted academic and athlete who struggled with emotional issues over the years.
“He is a productive member of society,” the attorney said.
An investigation of Martin began after parents at Harvard-Westlake saw the post on his verified Instagram account. Concerns over the post triggered the school’s closure on Feb. 23.
The former NFL player was subsequently detained by Los Angeles police and hospitalized at a mental health facility after the image was posted and officers found him in possession of the loaded weapon in a car in Glendale. During a search of his home, detectives confiscated other weapons including an ax and a large knife, according to law enforcement sources.
According to those sources, Martin admitted to making the Instagram post. He was formally charged with making criminal threats on March 13.
Martin graduated from Harvard-Westlake in 2008 and after attending Stanford joined the Dolphins in 2012. But during his second year in the NFL, he became the center of a scandal after alleging he was harassed and bullied by teammates, including offensive linemen Incognito and Pouncey. A league investigation found a hostile work environment inside the Dolphins locker room.
A judge issued a temporary restraining order March 1, barring Martin from going onto Harvard-Westlake’s campuses or near President and Head of School Rick Commons, and other employees. The order described Martin’s Instagram post as a “credible threat of violence” and said that he could come to “act upon his threat of revenge.”
A hearing scheduled Thursday could make the order permanent for three years.
Harvard-Westlake’s president noted that the Instagram post came amid a series of threats that sparked multiple police responses at Southern California schools in the days after a gunman killed 17 people at a Parkland, Fla., high school.
Since his retirement from the NFL in 2015 following a back injury, Martin has been living in West Hollywood, which Harvard-Westlake officials noted was four miles from its middle school campus.
In court papers, Harvard-Westlake officials said Martin had expressed anger publicly toward the school in the past and blamed it for his struggles later in life.
In a 2015 Twitter post, Martin detailed his issues growing up in Los Angeles, saying they culminated with him attempting to kill himself on multiple occasions, while in the NFL. The roots of his troubles, he wrote, were his struggles with his racial identity and discomfort as “one of just a handful of minorities” on the Harvard-Westlake campus.
“You learn to tone down your size & blackness by becoming shy, introverted, friendly, so you won’t scare the little rich white kids or their parents,” he wrote in 2015. “Neither black nor white people accept you because they don’t understand you. It takes away from your self-confidence, your self-worth, your sanity.”
Martin’s next court appearance is April 25. He could receive a sentence of up to six years in prison if convicted of all charges.
7:10 p.m.: This article was updated with more details about Martin and additional editing for clarity.
4:20 p.m.: This article was updated with information about Martin’s next court appearance.
4 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from Martin’s attorney.
This article was originally published at 3 p.m.