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Judge: Lawyers can't ask man about benefits; agent accused of slamming man's face onto floor

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SALT LAKE CITY — A federal judge ruled Wednesday that he won't allow attorneys for an immigration agent accused of slamming a man's face into a concrete floor to question the alleged victim about benefits he's received for participating in the case.

U.S. District Judge Dee Benson made the decision in a federal courtroom in Salt Lake City during the last hearing before Jon Martinson Jr. goes to trial next month on accusations that he violated federal laws and constitutional rights in the June 2013 incident.

Martinson has pleaded not guilty.

He has been suspended indefinitely pending the outcome of the criminal case, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Virginia Kice said. Martinson joined the agency in October 2011 and was working in the enforcement and removal arm of the agency, she said.

His attorney, Jeremy Delicino, argued that the jury at next month's trial should know that the accuser has been allowed to stay in the United States rather than be deported to Mexico and that he hasn't been forced to check in with federal authorities.

U.S. Attorney's Office prosecutor Carlos Esqueda called it inaccurate to say that Fabian Maldonado-Pineda, has been granted any benefit for his participation. He said it is standard practice to allow a person illegally in the country to remain temporarily in the U.S. until criminal abuse cases play out in the judicial system.

PHOTO: Jon Martinson Jr., center, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent accused of slamming a man's face into a concrete floor,  leaves the federal courthouse following a hearing Wednesday, June 17, 2015, in Salt Lake City. Martinson has pleaded not guilty to violating federal laws and constitutional rights in the June 2013 incident. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Jon Martinson Jr., center, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent accused of slamming a man's face into a concrete floor, leaves the federal courthouse following a hearing Wednesday, June 17, 2015, in Salt Lake City. Martinson has pleaded not guilty to violating federal laws and constitutional rights in the June 2013 incident. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Benson sided with the prosecution.

He also denied a request by federal prosecutors to allow evidence in the trial about a separate, off-duty assault allegation against Martinson from 2006. Prosecutor Drew Yates argued that a fight at a pizza parlor where Martinson is accused of punching a man who was being held by his friends shows a pattern and mindset pertinent to this case.

Delicino said the incident occurred after a night of drinking and has no bearing on the events in question in this case.

Benson agreed with defense attorneys that the old fight is irrelevant, and denied the prosecution's request.

Martinson contends that the incident occurred after Maldonado-Pineda refused to follow rules and was being disruptive to other inmates in an ICE facility in West Valley City, recent court filings show. Maldonado-Pineda pulled away from Martinson repeatedly as Martinson tried to remove him from the cell, causing the agent to do a hip-toss on the man, his attorneys say.

Maldonado-Pineda landed on his chest, not his face, suffering only minor injuries, they allege in court documents. Maldonado-Pineda was in custody and charged with illegal re-entry to the U.S. after having been deported.

Martinson and his attorney declined comment outside court.

A five-day jury trial is set to begin July 13.

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