BRIDGEPORT — City Councilwoman Eneida Martinez sought on Tuesday to avoid criminal charges in connection with the death of 21-year-old Nyair Nixon, while Nixon’s father looked on from the gallery and demanded justice.
Martinez, who was reelected to the City Council in November, has been named in criminal and civil cases in connection to Nyair’s killing on Sept. 27, 2020. But on Tuesday, her legal counsel told a state Superior Court judge that she would be asking for probation in an effort to settle the criminal charges.
According to Charles Nixon, his son was shot by another patron inside Keystone Club, which it is alleged that Martinez was managing during the pandemic despite state restrictions. Nixon claims that, after the shooting, the councilwoman instructed staff to drag his son out of the club and onto the street to cover up the illegal operation, where he was struck by a car and killed.
For almost two hours on Tuesday, Nixon awaited the councilwoman’s arrival at the courthouse, wearing a shirt affixed with a photo of his son and himself. Martinez, who denies playing any role in the death, eventually stepped in front of the judge and moved to skirt the criminal charges — one count of second-degree reckless endangerment and 10 counts of illegal sale of alcohol.
“It’s a smack in the face,” Nixon told CT Examiner at the courthouse. “But I’m going to fight the long haul.”
Alec Gulash, Martinez’s attorney, said his client would be applying for an accelerated rehabilitation program. If granted, the councilwoman would be placed under probation for up to two years, and her charges — to which she pleaded not guilty — could be dismissed.
Judge Mary Elizabeth Reid waived Martinez’s application fee and said that the court would rule on the probation request on March 4.
In addition to the criminal charges, Martinez, the City of Bridgeport, the City Council and former city Health Director Lisa Morrissey were sued by Nyair’s estate in September 2022 on 24 separate counts, including negligence, private nuisance, and willful, wanton and reckless misconduct.
In the 33-page complaint, the estate alleged that Martinez used her connections as a councilwoman to convince city officials including Morrissey to allow her to operate Keystone Club as a “private social club” without a proper license during the pandemic. The estate is seeking $15,000 in damages, and jury selection for the trial begins in April.
Police also arrested and charged Nyair’s suspected shooter, 37-year-old Charles Lee Young, this past September. Young is set to appear in court on Friday.
Nixon said he’s been encouraged by the ongoing progress in the criminal and civil cases, but was deflated by Martinez’s Nov. 7 reelection.
Martinez successfully ran for years for City Council as a Democrat alongside Ernest Newton in District 139 before losing the seat to Wanda Simmons by just 52 votes in the 2021 general election.
But despite Nixon’s calls to end her campaign, Martinez was again elected to the legislative body with Newton in November, beating four other candidates with 575 votes.
“We were fighting tooth and nail, and they just threw her in there,” he said of the election.
However, Nixon said he doesn’t directly blame the voters in the East End. Rather, he said Martinez’s reelection speaks to a longstanding culture of corruption among Bridgeport officials.
Along with the shooting, Martinez faced criticism for her role in a recent absentee ballot fraud lawsuit ahead of the November election. Judge William Clark, who presided over mayoral candidate John Gomes’ lawsuit against city officials, called city surveillance footage of Martinez and Wanda Geter-Pataky stuffing stacks of absentee ballots into city boxes “shocking,” and ordered a new Democratic mayoral primary election.
Two days after Clark’s ruling, officials including Mayor Joe Ganim and City Council President Aidee Nieves attended a campaign fundraiser for Martinez and Newton.
Nixon said it appears some officials have swept his son’s death “under the rug,” and noted most candidates would not be reelected after being sued for their alleged involvement in a homicide.
“If anybody in their right mind loses a kid or baby in the form that I did, you would not want that person to have any type of title in the City of Bridgeport,” Nixon said.
As the legal cases proceed, Nixon said he will continue to advocate for his son and keep up with Martinez’s criminal case.
Martinez did not respond to requests for comment from CT Examiner on Tuesday.