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Tom Martino's Westword interview: Mistakes, non-violence and dirty laundry

Tom Martino as seen in a 2010 video. More photos below.
Tom Martino as seen in a 2010 video. More photos below.

Update: Yesterday, we reported about Troubleshooter Tom Martino pleading guilty to disturbing the peace for a domestic incident involving his wife, Holly, last December; see our previous coverage below.

After the piece was published, Martino conducted a wide-ranging interview with Westword, going into more detail than ever before about the aforementioned argument with Holly, as well as a slew of previous happenings -- some hinted at in public, many not. Along the way, he attempts to set the record straight on what he sees as mistakes he's made, his non-violent nature, his media persona and piles of dirty laundry.

Note at the outset that we've reached out to Holly Martino, from whom Tom is currently seeking a divorce, in order to get her side of the story. At this writing, she has not responded to our interview requests. When and if she gets back to us, we'll share her take in this space.

A photo of Holly Martino on the links, from her Facebook page.
A photo of Holly Martino on the links, from her Facebook page.

It's also important to point out that Martino disagrees with any characterization of his decision to plead guilty as a deal. In his view, that implies he entered the plea in exchange for something.

"Here are the facts," he says. "There were two charges: disturbing the peace and assault. And they dropped the assault charge, because I never assaulted her. But I pleaded to disturbing the peace, because it was just and true. I disturbed her peace."

Regarding the specifics of what happened in December, here's an excerpt from the Denver Police Department report:

On 12-20-13 around 2315 hours, in the area of Auraria Pkway and I-25, the suspect, Martino, Thomas 09-4-53, was driving...with the victim, Martino, Holly...sitting in the right front passenger seat. The suspect and the victim began arguing. While the vehicle was stopped at a unknown red light the victim opened the passenger door to get out of the vehicle. The suspect put his arm around the victim preventing her from exiting the vehicle. When the light turned green the suspect drove away and they continued arguing. The suspect then struck the victim in the face once with a closed fist causing a bloody nose. This disturbed the peace of the victim.

Martino's version of what he characterizes as a "foolish, stupid argument that should not have taken place" is considerably different.

Holly "was very intoxicated -- like, four or five times the legal limit -- and very agitated. I should have put her in a car and sent her home. I was stupid for trying to calm her down. But I never struck her. If you look at the police reports from that night, I never said I struck her, and she never said it, either."

What happened?

"I was struggling for a cell phone," he explains. "She was texting my producer, Mike [Bassett]. She was firing him, and it was Christmastime. When she gets drunk, she starts getting agitated, and she was angry: She hates Mike and said, 'I'm going to fire him.' And I said, 'You're not going to fire anyone at Christmas -- and besides, I'm off for ten days and he's filling in for me. We'll handle things after the first of the year.'"

He did: Bassett is no longer a Martino employee. But back to the story:

Martino speaking at an Ohio Center for Broadcasting graduation in 2010.
Martino speaking at an Ohio Center for Broadcasting graduation in 2010.

"When she started texting, I grabbed the phone and got it away from her," Martino continues. "But she bit my hand and I reacted by pulling my hand away and she got a bloody nose. It went away when we home, but on the way, she kept grabbing for the wheel and trying to pull us over -- and then she opened the car door and tried to jump out of a moving car. And I was grabbing her to keep her in the car. So yes, we were fighting, but I never intended to hurt her, nor did I ever punch her in the face.

"When we got into our subdivision, she was so drunk, she started telling me she loves me -- but when we pulled into the house, she said, 'I'm going to ruin you. I'm going to let everyone know what you did and I'm going to ruin you.' And I said, 'Holly, if you really feel in danger, you should call someone. But nothing is going on. Let's go to sleep and we'll talk about it in the morning.'"

Instead, Martino goes on, "she called 911 and hung up -- but they called back. She told them nothing was wrong, but the guy said, 'I don't believe you,' and a cop showed up."

Continue for more of our interview with Tom Martino, followed by our previous coverage of his disturbing-the-peace guilty plea.

 

A screen capture from a 2010 Martino TV segment.
A screen capture from a 2010 Martino TV segment.

According to Martino, the same officer had responded to a separate dust-up two months or so earlier. In that case, he says, "we'd been at a fundraiser and Holly got agitated and started screaming at me. She screamed, 'Fuck you' and jumped into the car. At least this time, she had a friend with her and the friend was driving. I was in the backseat and Holly was trying to jump out of the car. I saved her from jumping out of the car and we got her home and she OD'd on insulin, saying she wanted to die. Then, when the cops and the paramedics came, she started yelling that I was trying to kill her."

As a result, Martino reveals, "the cops questioned me at my house for two hours. But they concluded that nothing had happened because her best friend was there and witnessed everything."

He maintains that similar circumstances have taken place "four previous times -- where Holly has screamed, 'Stop hitting me, stop hurting me.' But we have always had friends there -- and that's why I never, ever got in trouble. There was one time in a limo when she was screaming, 'Stop hurting me' and the driver said, 'I saw you punch Tom and he never raised a hand. He wasn't even near you, and you walked up and punched him.'"

According to Martino, he was also on the receiving end of blows last October when he was initially cited for harassment only to have the matter dropped soon thereafter.

Another Facebook photo of Holly Martino.
Another Facebook photo of Holly Martino.

"It wasn't at a restaurant," he says in reference to previous reports about what took place. "It was a fundraiser for Mi Casa at a golf course somewhere in Douglas County -- I don't remember the name. And a woman came up and shoved my wife and called her a bitch. It was just women's stuff: a group of women having a problem with each other over the months, and when they saw each other, the woman shoved my wife and called her a bitch. And when I said, 'Please leave us alone, she punched me in the face twice.'"

In response, Martino says, "I called the police and the woman was charged with assault. But she also charged me with harassment -- but that was dropped the next day, because the police clearly saw she was counter-charging me because she was irate that I'd called the police. She didn't call, the venue didn't call: I called and told them the woman had punched me twice in the face, which was the truth. But I decided not to pursue it."

Nonetheless, the initial harassment beef was reported in the context of the December incident with Holly, suggesting to some observers that the proximity of the police calls represented a pattern of behavior on Martino's part. That's demonstrably false, he says.

Continue for more of our interview with Tom Martino, followed by our previous coverage of his disturbing-the-peace guilty plea.

 

"Just look at my life," Martino says. "I have never, ever gotten into a fight. Never. And when I'm out in public, I don't act like an idiot. You can look at these things and think, 'He must be an angry, violent man.' But I'm not angry and I'm not violent. Some people don't like me and are going to say I am, and the people who like me are going to say I'm not. But the people who don't like me haven't seen a violent episode because there hasn't been one.

"People look at my radio and TV persona and assume I must go through life at that level of passion and volume. But if I did, I wouldn't last long."

Another 2010 Martino TV screen capture.
Another 2010 Martino TV screen capture.

There's no denying Martino's longevity as a broadcaster: As he notes, he's been a consumer reporter on TV and radio "for 34 years -- and for 34 years, I've had people trying to take me down. And I'm still here."

Indeed, he continues to be a midday staple on KHOW radio and, as of recently, its sister station, KKZN/760-AM -- and that won't change with his disturbing-the-peace guilty plea. Greg Foster, the Clear Channel Denver executive who oversees the outlets, responded to questions from Westword with the following e-mail:"Tom Martino's show continues to air on TalkRadio 630 KHOW and Real Talk 760."

Foster adds that "Tom is an independent contractor and not an employee of Clear Channel Media & Entertainment." Martino describes the relationship like so: "I own my staff and my show and I license it to them to run it. My company is paid a fee and then my company pays for me and my staff. I've always done it like that."

The publicity associated with the December arrest, not to mention a bankruptcy saga that began in 2011 and dragged on for two years or so, hasn't impacted his radio success or that of his website, Troubleshooter.com, he says. "My ratings are growing in normal fashion and my website hits are up 30 percent -- although I don't think it's because of this. I think I have helped people, and people I've helped tell other people. I've had wonderful referrals over the years and I have people who like me -- and also people who don't like me. That's always going to be the case, and nothing I say or do will change people's mind. Nothing."

Despite airing stories of domestic discord in a public forum, not to mention his recent comment to 9News that he now realizes "trophy wives" aren't important, Martino insists that "I don't want to hurt" Holly. "There's no reason for that. But I don't want to make it sound like I married a beautiful woman and then got tired of her and dismissed her, either -- because that's not what happened. We had some very serious marital problems and I believe any man in my position would have filed for divorce."

As for what he's learned, he says, "I learned that everything I do, I must assume it will be public. Everything. Every text. Every e-mail. Every incident. I learned that you can't reason with a drunk person. And I also learned that in a domestic-violence situation like this, you will never, ever explain it away. When the cops show up, somebody's going to get arrested, as well someone should, so long as no one's assumed to be guilty afterward. And it's wrong to assume that every accusation is true -- but that's what people have done with me.

"If people listen to me on the radio on a daily basis and hear me yelling and screaming at people, or recall my TV stories, where I chased people, they're going to say, 'I can see him doing that. He's a hot head, so of course.' And I don't care if people make assumptions. But if they really care, they should investigate. And if I was really a violent, stupid, angry man, I would have been punished. But the city attorney didn't think I was. Even the disturbing the peace charge has a deferred sentence, which means it goes away after a year."

In the meantime, Martino says he has three simple goals: "All I want to do is live my life, do my job and be a good father."

Continue for our original post about Tom Martino pleading guilty to disturbing the peace for a domestic incident last December, including additional photos.

 

Tom Martino in his 9News interview. More photos below.
Tom Martino in his 9News interview. More photos below.

Original post, 5:54 a.m. May 27: Self-proclaimed Troubleshooter Tom Martino, who was arrested in December 2013 after an alleged domestic violence episode involving his wife, Holly, has reportedly accepted a plea agreement for disturbing the peace that will be expunged from his record if he stays out of trouble for the next year.

Displaying his knowledge of the media, Martino released this information on Friday just prior to the Memorial Day weekend -- a time with extremely low media engagement -- thereby ensuring that the story would get as little attention as possible. But he did sit for an interview with 9News in which he made some noteworthy statements about the incident, trophy wives and Jesus Christ.

Here's the Denver Police Department description of what took place last year:

On 12-20-13 around 2315 hours, in the area of Auraria Pkway and I-25, the suspect, Martino, Thomas 09-4-53, was driving...with the victim, Martino, Holly...sitting in the right front passenger seat. The suspect and the victim began arguing. While the vehicle was stopped at a unknown red light the victim opened the passenger door to get out of the vehicle. The suspect put his arm around the victim preventing her from exiting the vehicle. When the light turned green the suspect drove away and they continued arguing. The suspect then struck the victim in the face once with a closed fist causing a bloody nose. This disturbed the peace of the victim.
A photo of Holly Martino from her Facebook page.
A photo of Holly Martino from her Facebook page.

Afterward, Martino posted the following message on his Facebook page:

Holly and I remain deeply in love and committed to each other and to our family. The incident that happened Friday night was a foolish mistake. We were both drinking too much. We got into an argument that escalated over a struggle for a cell phone. We were both inadvertently injured and we were not trying to hurt each other.

My overreaction was uncalled for. I am ashamed of my behavior. I should've walked away. I also believe alcohol was a major catalyst. We are dealing with our issues through professional Christian spiritual counseling, with mutual love and support. We advise anyone dealing with these struggles to seek help before there is an incident.

A lot's changed since this note appeared. For one thing, Martino appears to have taken his Facebook page offline. For another, he has publicly acknowledged that he and Holly are getting a divorce -- one whose records are sealed, so that his private financial information isn't made public.

This caution makes sense given the previous times when data like this was shared in court. After Holly declared bankruptcy in 2004, for instance, her ex-husband, Mike Willis, accused Martino of shifting assets -- a claim he denied. (Martino branded Willis a "liar.") And then there was Martino's own bankruptcy in 2011, in which he was said to have liabilities of $78 million -- a figure Martino disputed.

Martino ultimately settled the bankruptcy for $3.6 million, telling Westword he'd gotten into fiscal difficulty due to arrogance mixed with greed.

Presumably, Martino hoped this payout would be the last uncomfortable headline he'd generate for a while -- but it was not to be. In October, Martino was cited for harassment in Douglas County. And then came the arrest in December, which he declined to discuss with Westword at the time.

Continue for more about Tom Martino's plea agreement, including additional photos.

 

Tom Martino in pitchman mode.
Tom Martino in pitchman mode.

Now, however, Martino has selectively opened up, speaking to the Denver Post and 9News -- pretty much the only local news station for which he hasn't worked. (He was previously employed as a consumer-affairs personality for CBS4 and Fox31, which is affiliated with CW2.) But his effort to put the best face on the situation contained a number of eye-opening comments.

At one point, Martino says that his life began to unravel about four years ago, after he "did something strange: I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ."

No, he's not blaming Jesus for his bad luck. Rather, he says he was "being cleansed, and I was being taught a lesson that you don't need money and you don't need a trophy wife and you don't need fancy cars to be happy."

Is Martino now dismissing Holly as a "trophy wife"? Some people may interpret the comment that way. And in regard to the fancy cars, there's no question Martino has worked overtime to hang on to every cent he can amid the shrinking of his media empire: He was once a nationally syndicated radio personality, but his main properties are now his daily radio program on KHOW and a website, Troubleshooter.com.

Regarding the incident with Holly, Martino tells the Post he never struck her. Rather, he was trying to "restrain" her because she drunkenly tried to get out of a moving vehicle. She's said to have called the cops upon their return home, when they continued to engage in what he described as a "terrible, terrible, stupid argument.

"I was not violent," Martino insisted. "I'm not proud of my behavior. The reason I plead guilty to disturbing the peace is because I was an idiot."

We've e-mailed a list of questions to Martino and will update this post when and if we hear back from him. Additionally, we've reached out to a Clear Channel executive with questions about Martino's radio program.

Here's a look at Martino's booking photo.

Tom Martino.
Tom Martino.

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

More from our Media archive circa February 2013: "Tom Martino after bankruptcy settlement: 'It was arrogance mixed with greed.'"


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