James Martin, Pennsylvania District Attorney Whose Office Screwed Up the Murder Prosecution of Wrestler Jimmy ‘Superfly’ Snuka — And Covered Up It and Other Cases — Runs For an Unprecedented Sixth Term

Published January 4th, 2019, Uncategorized

by Irvin Muchnick

 

“Already the longest-serving district attorney in Lehigh County history, Jim Martin on Thursday announced that he’ll seek a sixth term. Martin, whose has been the county’s top law enforcement official since 1993, said he’s running on his 21-year record of effective crime fighting.”

So reports the Allentown Morning Call, at https://www.mcall.com/news/breaking/mc-nws-da-jim-martin-running-for-sixth-term-20190103-story.html.

Martin is one of the great bêtes noires in the history of this website, thanks to his long and dishonorable role in the too-little-too-late prosecution of Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka — once the most popular performer for the forerunner of what is now WWE — for what almost certainly was the 1983 murder of his girlfriend Nancy Argentino in a motel room in an Allentown suburb.

The Argentino family and the public never got a resolution of this matter: Two weeks prior to Snuka’s death two years ago this month at age 73 — and in the culmination of his 2015 grand jury indictment — a judge dismissed the case on grounds of mental incompetence.

For those of you unfamiliar with the story, we reproduce the pertinent links at the bottom of this article. My reporting on the under-the-radar Snuka case, first undertaken for but not published by New York’s Village Voice in 1992, evolved into an Internet samizdat phenomenon before becoming a chapter of my 2007 book Wrestling Babylon.

In 2013, in association with the late Nancy’s sisters Louise and Lorraine, I produced the for-charity ebook JUSTICE DENIED: The Untold Story of Nancy Argentino’s Death in Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka’s Motel Room, which is available at http://amzn.com/B00CPTP6VM. Louise and Lorraine were spurred to do the ebook after Snuka, in his own ghosted autobiography and in characteristically incoherent promotional interviews for it, referenced the case. Snuka even titillated conspiracy theorists — of whom I am not one — with the claim that WWE chief Vince McMahon had walked into a climactic meeting with then Lehigh County district attorney William Platt “carrying a briefcase.”

Shortly after the ebook launch, the Allentown Morning Call published a 30th anniversary “cold case” package, which is rightly credited with nudging D.A. Martin into securing the grand jury indictment of Snuka two years later. The Call’s story left out a few things, however.

For one, the cold case article, for all its hype of the shoe-leather work that went into unearthing old records from a courthouse archive, contained no essential information not known by the Call’s own reporters in 1983 — and promptly buried.

For two, the City of Whitehall supervisor of detectives of the time, Gerald Procanyn — by now double-dipping with a Whitehall retirement pension and a new job as a county D.A. investigator — had lied up one side and down the other to me about the Snuka case during my 1992 Village Voice reporting trip.

For three, the Call conveniently omitted mention of the fact that D.A. Martin in 1983 was first assistant to D.A. Platt.

And now the Allentown Morning Call is telling us that the ageless Jim Martin is on track to extend again his power within the stench and corruption of Lehigh Valley criminal justice. Don’t expect the Call to proceed to inform its readers about the stench and corruption part.

At the conclusion of one of the articles linked below, the introduction to the 2013 ebook, I wrote this:

 

“In the end, not every crime has a clean solution. Speaking strictly for myself, I don’t hold out for a miraculous thaw of the cold case and a turnaround by the public officials of Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, who in 1983 conducted themselves so cravenly. District attorney William Platt, now an esteemed senior judge in the state court system, simply exercised his discretion, and exercised it poorly.

My goal is more modest, and I hope more effective: shining daylight on what happened – and in the process subjecting the D.A., WWE, and Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka to the full prosecutorial wrath of history and the court of public opinion.”

 

*****

One victim of the stench and corruption is a local advertising guy, Bill Villa. After losing his 25-year-old daughter Sheena in a 2006 drunk-driving crash — and seeing the vehicular homicide perpetrator, Robert LaBarre, get off with only slightly more than the state’s mandatory minimum prison sentence, thanks to his connections as the son of a prominent local lawyer — Villa became a vocal critic of the district attorney in radio interviews and on his own blog. In retaliation, Jim Martin filed a defamation lawsuit against Villa that is now in its fifth year.

Martin v. Villa is perhaps the most abusive “SLAPP” (strategic lawsuit against public participation) I have ever come across. Here are the few things I’ve written about it:

  • “Jimmy ‘Superfly’ Snuka Murder Trail Delay Combines With District Attorney’s Defamation Lawsuit to Expose Rot at Core of Lehigh County Criminal Justice,” March 15, 2016, http://concussioninc.net/?p=10826
  • “Allentown Morning Call, After Botching Coverage of Jimmy ‘Superfly’ Snuka Murder Case, Botches Coverage of Prosecutor James Martin’s SLAPP Suit Against Critic Bill Villa,” September 1, 2017, http://concussioninc.net/?p=12181
  • “Judge Who Is Loose-Cannon Critic of Lehigh County District Attorney Martin Breaks Promise to Testify Against Him in SLAPP Suit,” October 18, 2017, http://concussioninc.net/?p=12243

 

*****

 

Comprehensive and chronological headline links to our Snuka coverage are here: http://concussioninc.net/?p=10501.

These are some highlights:

 

Muchnick Flashback: ‘Superfly Snuka and the Death of Nancy Argentino’

Published January 3rd, 2017