Press-Republican

January 5, 2013

Charges dropped in Tupper Lake rape case

By KIM SMITH DEDAM
Press-Republican

---- — TUPPER LAKE — Sex charges, including rape, leveled against a Tupper Lake man were dismissed.

A Franklin County grand jury found “no reasonable cause to believe” James P. Matthews of Tupper Lake committed the alleged crimes that prompted his arrest last year, according to Franklin County District Attorney Derek Champagne.

The DA said Friday that files in the case have been sealed and are no longer public record, so details of the complaint and names of the women who brought them are not available to the media.

Matthews was arrested April 22, 2012, after a woman claimed he assaulted her near the Old Northern Pub in Tupper Lake between midnight and 2 a.m. that day.

Another alleged incident involving another woman brought further charges, Champagne said.

The Tupper man was arraigned and held in Franklin County Jail on a $50,000 cash bail or $100,000 bond. He was accused of first-degree rape and two counts of criminal sexual act, all felonies.

NO PERJURY CHARGES

Both women testified before the grand jury, Champagne said.

“The grand jury listened to all the evidence presented,” he said in an interview Friday.

“They also heard testimony from Mr. Matthews, and the grand jury made a determination there was no reasonable cause to believe the crime had been committed.”

Jurors handed up a “no bill,” which is a legal term describing such a situation.

“Once they handed that decision up, my office received an order to seal all public records on the matter,” Champagne said.

A ‘no bill’ is not a determination of innocence, he added.

While a trial jury operates under a standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt,” the DA said, “a grand jury has a standard of reasonable cause to believe.”

And while this group didn’t, as a body, find enough cause to move the case forward, he said, it also didn’t decide the two women had presented false testimony.

“Had the grand jury found (the women) were lying, the grand jury could have issued charges for perjury,” Champagne said.

“I have seen nothing in that case to justify or warrant any charges against the alleged victims in any shape or form.”

The case would be reviewed again, he said, “only if new evidence is brought forward.”

MOTHER SPEAKS UP

While area media reported the charges against Matthews, pointed out his mother, Darcy Matthews, in a letter to the Press-Republican, there was no coverage of the grand-jury findings.

She believes her son has been exonerated, “and I feel obligated to stand up to help clear my son’s name and try to undo some of the damage to him and our family.

“Thanks to the actions of these (accusers), my family’s lives have been changed forever,” she wrote to the Press-Republican. “My son no longer feels like part of a community where he lived his whole life, where most of his family still live.

“My faith in this small and normally supportive community has been shaken to the core.” 

She said her son has moved out of the area but she still lives in Tupper Lake and wants people to know the charges against him were dropped.

Tupper Lake Police Chief Tom Fee was not available Friday for comment on the arrest and subsequent court findings.

Email Kim Smith: kdedam@pressrepublican.com