- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
A California man returned to jail to await his sentencing hearing when a St. Mary’s judge convicted him Wednesday of the second-degree rape of a woman who testified she was intoxicated and passed out before they had sex in a car upon leaving a bar.
Matthew Warren Beard, now 34, has been in pretrial custody since January, and he did not testify during his two-day trial on the charge from the encounter that occurred last summer.
St. Mary’s Circuit Judge Michael J. Stamm said at the trial’s close that text messages that Beard sent to a friend while traveling with the woman supported her account of what she could remember from her predawn travels on June 29, 2013, with the defendant from the bar to a parking lot and a playground area.
“She has been consistent through all her statements to police and testimony,” Stamm said, adding “all of which is corroborated by the defendant’s own actions ... [in writing] that he had sex with her while she was unconscious.”
The judge noted a text message that indicated Beard was having sex with the woman at the same time that he was advising his friend that “she’s unconscious. We can do whatever we want.”
The woman, now 25, testified earlier this week that she had sex with Beard during a brief relationship, before she saw him last summer at the bar where she had consumed multiple drinks and began exchanging text messages with him. They met outside at closing time, and he drove her car while she sat in the passenger seat.
She next remembered him being on top of her in the car, she said, and “I really didn’t have the strength to push him [away]. I was drunk, and I couldn’t stop him.”
During closing arguments on Wednesday morning, St. Mary’s Assistant State’s Attorney Julie White said that the woman was in no condition to consent to having sex with anyone, and that “if you wake up and that guy is inside of you, he’s already committed a crime.
“The defendant took advantage of her,” White said. “The defendant knew she was incapacitated.”
Theodore LeBlanc, Beard’s lawyer, argued that his client’s text messages that morning, considered in their entirety, indicated that he was contacting his friend to buy drugs after he had used the woman’s credit card and its PIN to get $300.
“She’s not hammered. She’s a little buzzed. He stole $300 from her,” LeBlanc said. “I’m not going to sugarcoat what my client did that night. He may be a thief, [but] he is not a rapist.”