Jesse Matthews Changes Plea


( 4UMF NEWS )Jesse Matthews Changes Plea:

Jesse Matthew has entered an Alford plea on charges that he attacked and molested a woman in Virginia in 2005.

It means he acknowledges that prosecutors have enough evidence to convict him without directly admitting any crime.

In the key testimony, forensic scientist Elizabeth Ballard said the chance it is not Matthew's DNA on the victim is less than one in 7.2 billion.

Matthew gave the plea to all three charges in the Fairfax case: attempted capital murder, abduction and sexual assault.

Consequently, the jury will play no role in deciding Matthew's sentence, it will be done solely by Judge David Schell. Sentencing is scheduled for October 2.

Morrogh said he was not yet ready to say what kind of sentence he will seek. Matthew had no deal with prosecutors, Morrogh said.

Matthew, 33, of Charlottesville, also is charged in a separate case with the abduction and killing last year of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham.

His plea came after the prosecution rested its case with DNA evidence found under the fingernail of the woman who said she was assaulted in the Fairfax case.

Defense lawyers tried unsuccessfully to get the judge to strike the case, saying the DNA evidence was insufficient for a conviction and that the victim's description did not exactly match the way Matthew looked at the time.

The judge rejected the request, and Morrogh said the evidence supported the charges, noting that the attacker specifically threatened to kill the victim if she didn't comply.

'He physically picked her up like a baby ... and carried her into the darkness,' Morrogh said. 'He did that to render her helpless for his purpose: to kill her and molest her for his pleasure.'

Matthew's family declined to comment as they left the courtroom.

The victim, who flew back from India to testify, told jurors Monday that her attacker grabbed her just steps from the door to her townhouse and carried her into a darkened area, where he ripped off her clothes and molested her. She fought and scratched him, yielding the crucial DNA evidence, until her attacker ran off as a bystander approached.

The woman did not explicitly identify Matthew as her attacker during her testimony. She will speak again at a hearing June 18, giving impact testimony ahead of Matthew's sentencing.

The Associated Press generally does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault.

Gil Harrington — mother of Morgan Harrington, a Virginia Tech student who was killed and whose case is linked by DNA evidence to the Fairfax case — said after the plea: 'We're a third of the way there,' referring to her daughter's case, in which no charges have been filed; the Hannah Graham case; and the current case.