Wednesday, January 23, 2008

14 is not old enough to consent to sex

City man receives 10 years for having sex with girl, 14

Published:Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The judge said the victim was not old enough to

consent to sex.



YOUNGSTOWN — The defense attorney for a city man sentenced to 10 years in prison for having consensual sex with an underage girl says the conviction and sentence should send fear into any coach, teacher or other person who spends time alone with teenagers.

“This was a he-said, she-said” situation, said Atty. John F. Shultz of the conviction of Brian P. Matthews, 37, of Argo Street. “There was no corroboration.”

Shultz said he wonders if the public’s attitude toward sex allegations involving children has changed since sexual misconduct among Catholic priests was uncovered several years ago.

“The attitude is every time there’s an allegation, everyone believes that he’s probably guilty,” Shultz said.

Natasha Frenchko, an assistant Mahoning County prosecutor handling the case, said she believes the victim’s testimony was adequate to convict Matthews because her story never changed during eight hours of testimony over two days.

She said she believes Matthews’ apology to the girl before sentencing also shows his guilt.

Matthews said, “I do accept the verdict of the jury. I do apologize to the family and to [the girl]. And I truly hope that she gets the help she needs to move on with her life.”

A jury convicted Matthews on Dec. 4 of 13 counts of unlawful sexual contact with a minor for having sex with the girl on a Canfield-area farm where he worked as a farm hand for four years. The acts took place between August 2004, when the girl was 14, through May 2006.

Judge Maureen A. Sweeney of common pleas court could have sentenced him to up to 65 years in prison, as recommended by Frenchko.

Instead, she sentenced him to prison and five years’ probation afterward. As a sexual predator, he will be required to report his whereabouts to authorities every 180 days for 25 years after he leaves prison.

The relationship came to light when an employee at the farm discovered the girl’s diary in the girl’s backpack. It contained graphic descriptions of her sexual encounters with Matthews.

The girl testified for parts of two days about the encounters and about the diary. No physical evidence was presented regarding the encounters, and no witness reported seeing any of them.

Shultz told Judge Sweeney that Matthews has a wife and child, no criminal record and used no force on the victim at any time. “But for the age of the victim,” he said, Matthews would have been charged with nothing or a lesser offense, he added.

In her sentencing, Judge Sweeney clarified that the sex acts between Matthews and the girl “would have been consensual if the victim was older,” but the girl was not old enough to consent to sex at the time.

The girl’s father spoke before sentencing, saying his research on sexual predators indicates that only 10 percent of offenders are ever convicted and that the only way to stop them from committing offenses against children is to put them in prison.

The father said outside of court later that he wished the jury could have seen his daughter when she was 14 to understand that she was just a child when the offenses started, not the 17-year-old who testified last month.

By Ed Runyan (Contact)

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