ALLENTOWN, Pa. | The victim of an apparent 2017 home invasion in Upper Macungie Township proved to be an uncooperative witness, refusing to testify for the prosecution against one of his alleged attackers.
Rennie Watts faces attempted homicide, conspiracy and assault charges in connection with the April 5, 2017, attack and robbery inside a Cherry Tree Crossing home. During Watts’ preliminary hearing Wednesday, the alleged victim, Brien Martinez, verified his address the night of the attack, which is where his cooperation ended.
When asked by Assistant District Attorney Lisa Cipoletti if he had planned to meet an acquaintance that night, a clearly uncooperative Martinez responded that he was only in court because he didn’t want to get arrested by his parole officer.
“I really don’t want nothing to do with this case,” he told District Judge Karen Devine, who was presiding over the hearing.
Martinez said he’d already reported to police what happened the night of the alleged attack, which is as much as he wanted to cooperate. Martinez had an attorney in the gallery, but the judge said he could not advise Martinez unless he invoked a specific legal right.
“I don’t want to be part of this case at all,” Martinez said.
Cipoletti noted for the record that no threats had been made against Martinez regarding his testimony and proceeded to again ask if he planned to meet a Buddy Wright the night of the home invasion. Martinez did not answer the question and invoked his Fifth Amendment right. Wright, who is not in custody, has also been charged in the home invasion.
Before ending her questioning, Cipoletti noted that Martinez couldn’t invoke his right against self-incrimination in response to a question about whether the witness planned on meeting an acquaintance. Defense attorney Joshua Karoly insisted on cross-examining Martinez, clarifying that he planned on “pleading the Fifth” to every question by the prosecution.
The prosecution, instead proceeded with the testimony of Adam Miller, a detective with the Upper Macungie Township Police Department. Miller testified that he met with Martinez at St. Luke’s University Hospital, where he was receiving treatment for knife wounds to the forearm and side.
Martinez said he was home that night awaiting a visit from Wright, when two other men allegedly came barging into the mobile home behind Wright, according to Miller. He testified that Martinez reported he’d been dragged into the bathroom, where the men tried to restrain him with duct tape.
During the ensuing struggle, Watts – originally identified only as “Puta” – and a second unidentified man allegedly pulled knives and stabbed the victim. The unidentified man also pulled a gun and fired three shots. Miller said investigators collected three spent shell casings and a spent round.
Miller testified that Martinez identified Watts by nickname as one of his attackers and gave investigators what he thought was his real name. Martinez would later identify Watts out of an eight-photo array, according to Miller.
Testing confirmed that the victim’s blood was found on a folding knife recovered in the home and that Watts’ DNA was found on duct tape used to restrain the victim. In response to a question from Karoly, Miller testified that Watts’ fingerprints weren’t found on either the knife or the shell casings. And DNA testing couldn’t determine when Watts’ DNA could have been placed on the duct tape, Miller said.
Karoly argued that the conspiracy and attempted homicide charges against his client be dismissed. The knife wound allegedly inflicted by Watts clearly was not life-threatening or to a vital part of the body and there’s no evidence the gun allegedly fired during the robbery was pointed at the victim, the defense argued.
The evidence shows there was a struggle that night, and the victim told police that Watts allegedly yelled for his co-conspirator to shoot Martinez, Cipoletti argued. And it doesn’t matter whether Watts was in the house or sitting in the car, conspirators are responsible for the actions of the other conspirators, she said.
Police charged Watts with attempted murder, two counts of aggravated assault and single counts of conspiracy, robbery, simple assault, theft and receiving stolen property. Devine forwarded all the charges to Lehigh County Court, and Watts remains in county jail ahead of a Dec. 17 formal arraignment after failing to post $250,000 bail.