Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Unsolved Matheson Mystery

I spent my few days off reading a couple of the "police procedural" mystery crime novels of Michael Connelly. It piqued my interest in cold cases and unsolved mysteries. Which in turn brought to mind the matter of the continuing Matheson Mystery and the reasons why he was allowed to return to Sierra Madre from his conviction and imprisonment in Canada for possession of voluminous amounts of child pornography with no local legal consequences whatsoever.

There is an argument that keeps popping up in any discussion about Bob Matheson's apparent escape from having to register here as a sex offender. The sell being that because he was arrested in another jurisdiction, registration in Sierra Madre was legally unenforceable. This is how that argument was stated yet again in a comment left on The Tattler last Thursday:

Bob Matheson is not required to register as a sex offender because his crime was committed in another country and or in another state. Thats (sic) just the way it is.

Is this often repeated argument true? It has long been my contention that it is not, and today I was going to write about the reasons why I believe this is so. But then I dug into the archives and found that late last February I had already written an article on the matter. Back when the argument that the Sierra Madre Police Department had no legal basis to require Matheson to register was first raised.

I decided I would repost that February article here because I think it raises some important questions. Particularly on whether or not the City of Sierra Madre had shown proper initiative in registering Matheson as a sex offender upon his return from some ill-fated Canadian adventures. As this article suggests, the legal avenue for doing so apparently exists, despite what you might have heard. It also raises the question of why nothing was done, which to me is the biggest mystery of all.

The Matheson Return: Did the City Make the Right Call?

Recently we posted an article entitled "Has Sierra Madre Prepared for the Return of Bob Matheson?" It turns out that the answer to that question is yes, it did prepare something. At least for itself. However, given the fact that Matheson had been arrested and imprisoned in Canada for possession of a laptop containing 2,820 pictures of naked young boys, along with 285 videos of boys having sex with adult men, the City's conclusions might not be as restrictive or punitive as many in this community would expect.

Apparently what the City of Sierra Madre did was build for itself the case that it had to do nothing. And that Bob Matheson could return to his home and resume life here in whatever way he might wish. A conclusion which, given the characteristic passivity of this City's government in the face of challenges of this magnitude, is not as surprising as it should have been.

The Sierra Madre Weekly reported it this way:

The Police Department has confirmed at this time Mr. Matheson is under no obligation to register as a sex offender under California law.

The Sierra Madre Patch had heard a similar rhythm coming from the Sierra Madre Police Department:

Matheson voluntarily came to the to the police station and met with interim Police Chief Larry Giannone. Giannone said, "Mr. Matheson voluntarily came to the police station to advise us that he was back at his residence and simply stated, "There are two sides to every story." The Police Department has confirmed at this time Mr. Matheson is under no obligation to register as a sex offender based on California law.

A similar interpretation was also offered in the Sierra Madre News.net. Though their reporting was pretty much limited to posting the SMPD's press release.

But is this actually true? Is the City's press release a statement that should be accepted at face value? Given the City's past questionable interpretations of the law it might not be a bad idea to at least question the wisdom of their decision. You never know what answers you might come up with.

In the Pasadena Star News these questions are asked. The article is entitled "Sierra Madre Police: Man convicted of child porn charges in Canada won't be registered as sex offender." Here is what they have to say:

Sierra Madre Interim Police Chief Larry Giannone said the Los Angeles District Attorney's office told his department that California's sex-registration requirement doesn't apply to Matheson because his conviction occurred outside the United States.

But a former Orange County district attorney who specialized in sex crimes has questioned that interpretation of the law. Matheson was arrested in October after being questioned by authorities at a Canadian airport. According to prosecutors, Matheson gave vague answers to questions about his travel plans.

Matheson, a prominent Sierra Madre resident who was a member of the Chamber of Commerce and assisted with former Mayor Joe Mosca's 2010 campaign, could not be reached for comment.

This does raise some disturbing issues. What if the City's interpretation of the law in this case is faulty? The PSN did attempt to discuss this with the Los Angeles District Attorney's office, but they declined to take the call. And then there is this troubling matter. What if Matheson, because of his social prominence and relationships within Sierra Madre's elite circles, is getting the benefit of the doubt here? What if it was someone of lesser social and political stature who was in Matheson's position? Would the City's reception have been as non-judgemental?

Michael Fell, a former Orange County deputy district attorney who specialized in sex crimes, said he didn't believe the California Penal Code makes an exception for convictions outside of the country.

He pointed to Senate Bill 622, which was signed into law in September and requires the State Department of Justice to review out-of-state offenders' criminal record to determine if they should be registered as a sex offender.

The bill expanded the list of those required to register as a sex offender to anyone convicted of such a crime "in any other court, including any state, federal or military court."

Fell said has he understands it, sex-crime convictions in another state or country would require sex-offender registration as long as the law in the other state or country is substantially similar to California law.

"As long as it has the elements," Fell said, "maybe it's not a gray area."

So is Canadian law, which as a Commonwealth country is closely tied to the laws of Great Britain (he was prosecuted there by a Crown Attorney), so inferior to the laws of California in this matter that Matheson needed to be shielded from its effects here in Sierra Madre?

If someone were to show that the City made a wrong call here, and that by failing to register Matheson as a sex offender illegally endangered the safety and welfare of some of our most vulnerable residents, Sierra Madre could be at some considerable legal risk.

So Here's the Smoking Gun

Terry Miller, who runs the Beacon Media family of papers (which includes the Sierra Madre Weekly) and has done some extremely valuable reporting on the Matheson affair, wrote in yesterday with the following:

I thought you would like to see what I just received from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE):

"In response to your inquiry regarding the status of ICE Homeland Security Investigations' (HSI) probe involving Sierra Madre resident Robert Matheson, there is no new information I can provide about the case. HSI agents executed a warrant at Mr. Matheson's Sierra Madre residence late last year seeking evidence related to this investigation. The case remains pending at this time. The ultimate determination about whether federal charges will be brought in a case is made by the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Also, I understand the Sierra Madre Police Department has issued a news release regarding whether Mr. Matheson will be required to register as a sex offender in the United States following his conviction in Canada. To be clear, HSI is not involved in that process. Here is a link to a document on the Department of Justice website outlining the registration guidelines for sex offenders. On page 16, there is specific information regarding the implications of foreign convictions."

Here is what is found on page 16 of the Justice Department guidelines. It heavily contradicts the City's claims regarding Matheson's status as a sex offender.

Section 111(5)(B) of SORNA instructs that registration need not be required on the basis of a foreign conviction if the conviction "was not obtained with sufficient safeguards for fundamental fairness and due process for the accused under guidelines or regulations established by the Attorney General." The following standards are adopted pursuant to section 111(5)(B):

Sex offense convictions under the laws of Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand are deemed to have been obtained with sufficient safeguards for fundamental fairness and due process, and registration must be required for such convictions on the same footing as domestic convictions.

Apparently Terry's contact at ICE feels that the City of Sierra Madre and its Police Department screwed up by not registering Matheson as a sex offender. And the reasons for doing so provided by ICE seem irrefutable.

So here is the final question of the day. Did the City's failure to do the right thing here stem from indifference or incompetence, or has Matheson been been given a pass for other reasons?

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

54 comments:

  1. I think the problem is, he didn't get a traffic ticket for child porn. Maybe the PD, REALLY doesn't know how to do anything else but hand out traffic citations....
    Please republish his picture periodically, so our kids and parents can recognize him on the street.

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    1. Excellent idea.

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    2. If one of his tail lights were out, then we'd see some action.

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  2. I think he was given a pass, SMPD just sits on problems until the heat dies down. (gas station)

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    1. But why was he given a pass? Why this crazy story about him not being required to register?

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    2. Why did Mosca suddenly leave town after just being recently elected?????

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    3. The rumor is Matheson and Mosca were tight. Matheson did host Joe's 2010 campaign kickoff event. But I don't know about this being connected to Joe leaving the US, though. It would be so bizarre if there was a connection.

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    4. I can't believe the police ignored Bob Matheson due to his connection to anyone of influence in the city. Though it makes for good rhetoric from those who hate the Mosca side of the fence, it doesn't make sense. People distance themselves in this situation. In this hyper litigious society it makes maybe more sense that there is liability exposure to the city in dealing with Matheson. We've seen through John's comprehensive research that there (unfortunately) is a gray area. I know Bob and apart from one short phone conversation at the beginning of the year (where he reiterated his "two sides to the story" claim) I have not seen or heard from him anywhere.

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    5. "Two sides to every story." That is a rather wide open statement. Have you concluded that it absolutely doesn't have anything to do with the involvement of other people?

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    6. There is no gray area. Stop being an apologist.

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    7. Thank you 6:28.
      And yes, there's a legal threat to the city - as in Matheson is discovered to have used local children, or someone is hurt by him now, when he should be a registered sex offender.

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    8. Yes there are two sides. There's the criminal's side, and the victim's side.

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    9. To 6:28: The "gray" area I was referring to, with John's exhaustive research, there is still no compelling, obvious reasons why the city didn't register Matheson. I think you need to brush up on your reading comprehension. And while you're at it, read with your head not your arse.

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    10. Never for a minute believe that it isn't possible to find profound truths in dark places.

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    11. That was tart, 10:58.

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    12. Or, 10:58, perhaps it is the lack of clarity in your writing that comes from the nether regions.

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    13. 11:52: I was simply posing a perspective as to why, possibly, the city tread lightly in dealing carefully and cautiously with Matheson trying to limit legal liability exposure (which would end up costing us taxpayers money). In the adult world we call that "ready, aim, fire", as opposed to "ready, fire, aim". 6:28 misread what I said (which was actually a compliment to John's efforts to find the truth) and spat on me (that was a metaphor 11:52 in case I am again obfuscating) Hey, I have an idea: instead of trying to understand what I was saying, just continue the vitriol and hammer me again.

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    14. Do you really think that is likely? That the city was afraid of registering Matheson as a sex offender because they feared a lawsuit?

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    15. Regarding this portion of the comments:
      1) It is clearly far more likely that Matheson's victims will sue the city, and
      2) 1:07 sounds good until the self righteous victim flavor takes over, and then the martyrdom raises doubts about the sincerity of the posts.

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    16. From 5:31: "I know Bob and apart from one short phone conversation at the beginning of the year (where he reiterated his "two sides to the story" claim)..."
      And for 2 days you're following up on posting comments?

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    17. I believe 1:07 is looking to create a theory counteracting the notion that the city failed to execute a registration on RM in order to assure he would not implicate others.

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    18. You people eat your young too? I'm not supporting the cities lack of registering Matheson. Just trying to offer a rational alternative why the city, that is supposed to have an obligation to protect our fiduciary interests, might hesitate. What a waste of time trying to be rational on this blog. Too bad because John deserves better.

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    19. As Madge at the nail salon used to say, "You're soaking in it."

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  3. Is it possible that Sacramento selected us along with other small cities,to be sanctuary city for various crooks,felons and other unsavory types.Sacramento is cutting cost anywhere it can and the Prison and Jail population is a good place to begin.Face it,we are small,out of the way and with a forth level Police Department that will never hassle them,except for a traffic citation.

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    1. Yes, this sure sounds possible,7:44

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    2. Weren't we picked for a homeless shelter?

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  4. This lack of action to protect residents is stunning.

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  5. Robert William Matheson has been moving around among us unnoticed for half a year. How many pictures has he taken? He has the photographic experience, and I don't mean as a viewer. Bob was once a cameraman. Does anyone believe that creep has reformed?

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    1. No, of course not, these sicko perverts NEVER change.

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  6. So who is ultimately responsible for ignoring page 16 of the Justice Department guidelines?

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    1. Why don't the Sierra Madre police officers INTIMIDATE this pervert, Matheson, according to their union playbook, the strategy is to intimidate individuals in order to force cities to pay more for their union pensions/benefits and salaries. This is what they all do, all over California.
      Many people I've spoken to think the burglaries of John Crawford's home and former Mayor MaryAnn MacGillivray's homes were no conincidence. What two people would this police union wish to intimidate more than these two people who inform the public of the truth?

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    2. The police officer's union does indeed use intimdation.
      There was one Mayor in California who was falsely accused of drunk driving, this is what they do. They intimidate council members and city managers to do their bidding. It is their UNION that does this.

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  7. Speaking of unanswered mysteries, how much $$ did Harabedian REALLY spend to get elected? Bet it was north of $20,000, any takers?

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    1. Quit picking on Harabedian. I bet it was only about $10,000. Geez.

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    2. Ummm, no. It was a heckuva lot more than that.

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    3. you can review his campaign finance statement. They are public record and available from the city clerk. Harabedian spent north of 20K.

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  8. if Matheson was a skateboarding teenager on the sidewalk downtown the PD would be all over him

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  9. The City's priority is collecting fees on permits. Not this other stuff.

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  10. Please..stop with the complaints...This community has been corrupt and mismanaged for years.Nobody has ever paid a penalty.Law in SM is considered only relative and is applied on a case by case basis.Good people have tried but are ultimately defeated.A community,state etc are only as good the people's expectations.

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    1. So you're saying things are hopeless and we should all just give into it all? That isn't good.

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    2. Wow. Things must be even worse than I thought!

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  11. I am personally relieved that my kids are grown and my grandkids don't live here, and am sorry for parents whose kids are in shouting distance of the perverted Matheson. This is an outrage to the public safety of Sierra Madreans.

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  12. Anyone know how his neighbors dealing with this?

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    1. There's a house for sale that's a few houses to the north of his, but I don't know if that's related.

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    2. I'd like to be a fly on the wall when the realtor gives the selling spiel - and the neighbors are lovely, right? Bet they neglect to mention Matheson child pornography devotee just down the street.

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    3. Oh come now 12:39. You're not suggesting a realtor would omit such an important fact, are you?

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    4. They will tell their perspective clients that a very famous photographer lives in the neighborhood.

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    5. Realtors have a very strict code of ethics to follow.

      And that is enforced by magic.

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    6. Huh. That explains the glitter and unicorns.

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  13. Do you think that any of our police officers would tolerate this in the neighborhoods they live in?

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  14. Canada won't allow Matheson to cross their boarder after his conviction. Sierra Madreans can only hope that Matheson will feel the sting from the U.S. Justice Dept. and it's crime unit for the sexual explotation and enslavement of minors.

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    1. That is far too ribald for a family site.

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