A 48-year-old Westminster man pleaded guilty yesterday to charges of sexual abuse and providing alcohol to minors after admitting that he had sex with a 17-year-old girl at his daughter's sleepover party, where he bought beer for members of a high school girls' varsity basketball team.
Asking for a chance to rebuild his life, Randall S. Matthews tearfully told Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. in Carroll County Circuit Court that his bad judgment and weakness on Dec. 20, 2002, led to consequences that turned his world upside down, including damaging his relationship with his two teen-age children.
His 16-year-old daughter was one of eight girls suspended from playing basketball for the rest of the season at Westminster High School after allegedly violating the Carroll County school system's alcohol policy. The team's longtime coach resigned.
"I know I'm here today for punishment, but much of my punishment started a year ago," said Matthews, who shook as he told the court how he had lost his job and his reputation. "I am perceived in some circles as a monster, when nothing could be further from the truth."
Matthews pleaded guilty to one count of felony sexual abuse and eight misdemeanor counts of serving alcohol to minors. The state dismissed nine other charges as part of a plea agreement.
Tracy A. Gilmore, the county's deputy assistant state's attorney, recommended a sentence of five years with all but 18 months suspended. "These girls have been punished, and it's appropriate the defendant be punished," Gilmore said.
Although the girl was older than Maryland's age of consent, which is 16, and told police that she agreed to have sex, authorities charged Matthews with child abuse under the care and custody segment of the statute on child sex abuse.
Because the girl's parents specifically asked Matthews whether he would be home to supervise the girls, they considered their daughter to be in Matthews' custody during the party, police and prosecutors said.
Defense attorney Scott D. Shellenberger acknowledged that his client was not a responsible adult that night but added that Matthews was not a threat to women or children. A Baltimore psychologist specializing in sexual disorders testified that he did not consider Matthews a sexual predator or pedophile.
Shellenberger asked the court to consider alternatives to jail time, such as home confinement and work release programs. He said his client needs employment to maintain his child-support payments.
Shellenberger said that after Matthews' arrest in February, his client was forced to resign from Maryland Rosewood Center, where he was making $60,000 a year as director of residential services.
The judge accepted the guilty plea and ordered a pre-sentence investigation. He scheduled sentencing for March 26.
Matthews' troubles began when basketball team members collected money to buy alcohol while returning on a bus from a game Dec. 20, 2002, prosecutors said. That night, nine of Westminster High's 12 players - ranging in age from 15 to 17 - and five or six boys attended a party at Matthews' house, down the street from the school, according to court documents.
Eight of the girls told police that they each drank between two and 11 beers as well as rum that was already in the house, the documents said.
The sexual contact began after one of the girls complained at 4 a.m. that she couldn't sleep, court documents showed. Matthews allowed her into his bedroom, and they began kissing and eventually had sex, according to court documents.