Judge says watchlist violates rights

CANTON — A Potsdam man who pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a child faced perjury charges and having his plea vacated Monday in St. Lawrence County Court after he told probation and others that he didn’t commit the crime.

James E. Matteson, 22, of 578 Route 11B, Potsdam, had pleaded guilty, under oath, to first-degree sexual abuse on July 2 in County Court as part of a plea deal that would see him sentenced to six months in the St. Lawrence County jail with 10 years of probation and satisfy a remaining charge of misdemeanor endangering the welfare of a child.

But during sentencing Monday, County Court Judge Jerome J. Richards read from statements where Matteson denied the way the incident happened.

In early July 2018, in the village of Potsdam, Matteson subjected an 11-year-old to sexual contact, however, during an interview with officials to determine his sex offender risk assessment, he said part of him believes he did not commit the offense and in his pre-sentence investigation with probation, said that he tickled the child three times, once on the upper thigh, according to statements read by Judge Richards.

The judge said those statements contrasted with electronic messages Matteson sent to the child that were sexual in nature. He said that Matteson was also committing perjury by now saying he didn’t commit the crime.

Matteson then folded and told the judge that he wanted to move forward to sentencing and that the crime he pleaded to was accurate.

Then Matteson had to listen to his victim’s mother as she told the court that the incident forever changed her family, and more specifically, her daughter and “turned into an evening of shock and despair.”

“She struggles,” the mother said. “She thinks that she is to blame what has happened and it is heartbreaking to me.“

While Matteson chose to remain silent when given the opportunity, Judge Richards echoed the woman, saying that while it is a “blip” on the radar of Matteson, it will impact the victim forever.

He added that Matteson, who has no criminal record, will have to register as a sex offender, will have to go into treatment, with the hopes that he will never offend again.

“There is no way I can take it away, if I could I would,” the judge said. “Please tell your daughter, ‘the judge said none of this is her fault.”

In addition to his sentence, Matteson he has to pay $1,425 in court fines, fees and surcharges.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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