Contract rapist and drug money enforcer faces long sentence
A Nome jury has found Austin Matthias, 24, guilty on two counts of sexual assault in the first degree and one court of assault in the second degree in the contract sodomy of another man on behalf of an alleged drug and alcohol dealer to whom the victim owed money. During the incident, Matthias punched the victim in the face and injured his nose, according to court testimony.
Saint Michael is a local option “dry” village where a fifth of contraband whiskey runs about $250.
On April 17 last year, Matthias raped the victim in the living room of the victim’s home in Saint Michael while three or four acquaintances hung out and watched or went out for smokes, and another witness babysat young children in a bedroom.
Matthias testified that he had raped the victim at the request of Julia Haworth, who had threatened to kidnap and torture Matthias’ wife if he did not perform the “favor” for Haworth, a codefendant, until their cases were severed.
Haworth’s case is scheduled for trial in Unalakleet beginning Nov. 13. Haworth refused to testify and did not appear at Matthias’ trial.
Matthias said he committed the assaults because he feared for his wife’s safety and feared Julia Haworth. Thomas Jamgochian, assistant district attorney, told the jury that Matthias “punished” the victim and did it to clear a debt as a business deal.
Matthias testified that he had the victim’s consent, as when he offered the victim a choice of having a bone broken or getting raped, the victim chose rape. The victim said he did not want to lose a body part, according to Matthias.
“That is force, not consent,” Jamgochian told the jury during his closing argument.
For his trouble, a witness said, Matthias got to drink half a bottle of liquor before he performed the rape and serious injury, and had an undocumented amount of his own debt to Haworth marked off, according to a witness. The next day, Matthias received four grams of marijuana and part of a bottle of alcohol.
The victim and others testified that Haworth and friends came to the victim’s house. They then went to get Austin Matthias and brought him back to the victim’s house the evening of April 16. Once there, witnesses and the victim testified that Haworth pushed shots on the victim amounting to about a fifth.
The victim didn’t refuse, tell Haworth it was enough? Matthias’ attorney Matt Tallerico asked the victim on cross examination.
“She was shoving it in my face,” the victim told Tallerico. “I said ‘This is too much, I don’t drink like this.’
“Here, keep going, chug, don’t stop!” Haworth said, according to the victim.
Matthias in graphic testimony told that Haworth fondled him about the neck and elsewhere to get him “ready” to perform. He then described the act in detail.
On the witness stand, the victim said when he became drunk at the level of eight on a scale of one to 10, he went off to the bedroom to lie down early in the morning April 17. He heard the door open. He got up to see, as he thought his girlfriend was coming in. According to the victim, he saw that instead it was Matthias, who busted him in the face, knocking him unconscious.
The next morning, the victim awoke in pain. “I was in so much pain, I couldn’t do anything,” the victim said. “I was laying in a pool of my own blood. I said ‘Who would do this? Who would do this to me?”
After two days, the victim made it to the clinic where he was treated and put on an emergency flight for further treatment. Barbara Cromwell, R. N., a sexual assault forensics nurse and member of the Sex Assault Response Team (SART) told the court the victim’s injuries were among the worst she had seen in forensics exams.
The jury heard audio recordings of Matthias lying to his wife in telephone conversations from AMCC, that were provided by Alaska State Trooper Aileen Witrosky made during the investigation. The tapes revealed that he eventually came clean about the crime, but said he had been “tricked,” he hadn’t wanted to rape the victim.
“You didn’t tell my parents, you didn’t get help, you didn’t call the police, you didn’t tell the troopers,” Matthias’ spouse responded.
The victim admitted to Tallerico that he had not seen Matthias’ face when he entered the bedroom, but maintained that he knew Matthias image; he had known him most of his life.
Further, in closing arguments to the jury, Tallerico said that the state’s witnesses were unreliable, that they had lied.
Jamgochian rebutted that there was no need to attack the witnesses, Matthias’ own testimony was sufficient.
Matthias is facing a range of 30 to 198 years jail time, according to Assistant District Attorney Thomas Jamgochian.
Matthias’ sentencing hearing is on the court calendar for Jan. 8, 2019.
In the four day trial beginning Sept. 10 in Second District Superior Court the court examined about a dozen witnesses. The jury came back with their verdict after about an hour and a half’s deliberation.
After the jury of 12 returned the verdict on Sept. 13, Superior Court Judge Romano DiBenedetto accepted the verdict and asked jurors to return to the jury room to decide yes or no answers on three aggravating factors concerning the crimes.
Yes, the jury reported: the three counts had involved gratuitous cruelty beyond commission of the crimes themselves, second, the crimes were the extreme example of the crime description, and third, Matthias had received monetary reward for raping the victim.
Matthias testified he had worked for Haworth for the past years, serving as her “muscle” to collect money in her bootleg business. According to Matthias’ testimony in court, he had beaten up about 50 to 100 people a year to collect debts owed to Haworth and been paid.
His client hadn’t wanted to commit the assaults, Tallerico told the jury.
He was forced by Julia Haworth.
“It was a business model to make profit,” Jamgochian countered.
Matthias had a plea deal worked out for about 10 years or less, but last year opted to go to trial.