Photo of Anthony Martinelli courtesy City of Des Moines
By Nicholas Johnson

Des Moines Mayor Matt Pina says he hopes councilmember Anthony Martinelli has “the fortitude to resign” in light of Martinelli’s arrest Friday (Oct. 22, 2021) on suspicion of six domestic violence-related offenses – including harassment, reckless endangerment and fourth-degree assault – stemming from three incidents dating to December 2020.

“As a Council, we do not condone this type of behavior and I am deeply saddened that he has tarnished the office in such a way,” Pina said in a written statement Friday (see statement below).

Position No. 6 councilmember Anthony J. Martinelli, who is being held at the SCORE South Correctional Regional Jail in Des Moines while he awaits an arraignment hearing, was taken into custody Friday afternoon following Judge Pauline Freund’s determination of probable cause and issuance of an arrest warrant earlier that day in Des Moines Municipal Court.

Citing a Tukwila police report, a Des Moines police report and several text-message threads, Des Moines City Prosecutor Tara B. Vaughn alleged in her Friday motion that Martinelli assaulted his partner in the presence of their young child in December 2020, and threatened to kill his partner in March 2021 and again in August 2021.

In her motion, Vaughn wrote: “… the City believes that the defendant is likely a danger to the community, specifically, the named victims as he is showing a pattern of increased violence towards [his partner] with no regard for the safety [of their child].”

Vaughn also wrote that the city believes Martinelli “will interfere with the administration of justice” and that his partner “is particularly susceptible to influence due to feelings of helplessness and isolation.

“He is an elected official well known and respected in the community with a stable income and strong local support system. What do I have?” Martinelli’s partner wrote to her mother in a Dec. 11, 2020, message, according to Vaughn’s motion.

“… the City believes there is a high likelihood that Mr. Martinelli is likely to commit a violent offense, and/or would attempt to interfere with the administration of justice by coaching [his partner] and/or trying to intimidate her as a witness,” Vaughn wrote in her motion.

According to court documents, Martinelli’s partner of four years told her mother about the incidents. Her mother contacted Des Moines police following the August incident.

In a Saturday post in a private Facebook group, Position No. 2 councilmember JC Harris, who was elected alongside Martinelli in 2019, said Pina seems to be “trying to politicize the issue” and said Pina spoke out of turn, in his capacity as mayor, in calling on Martinelli to resign his seat on the council.

“The Mayor … was right to want to make a statement quickly and decisively,” Harris wrote. “Delay would have made the City look insensitive. However, Mayor Pina should also have asked the Council for their input before speaking in his official role to insure the public that he also was not trying to politicize the issue.”

Nicholas Johnson (he/him) is an award-winning writer, editor and photographer who grew up in Boulevard Park, graduated from Highline High School and studied journalism at Western Washington University. Send news tips, story ideas and positive vibes to [email protected].