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Wednesday, March 8, 2000

Jury deliberates
in priest’s sex-
assault trial

It must decide if his act was a
harmless magic trick, or an attempt
at oral sex on a 13-year-old boy

By Debra Barayuga


It will be up to a jury to decide who is more credible: a 15-year-old boy who accuses a stranger of attempting to sexually assault him or the 50-year-old priest who befriended him and showed him some magic tricks.

A Circuit Court jury was to resume deliberating today in the trial for the Rev. Mark Matson, charged with fondling the then-13-year-old boy and attempting to perform oral sex on him.

The victim, who now lives in Arizona, and Matson, a Catholic priest, testified during the 2-day trial before Circuit Judge Victoria Marks.

Matson said that he was at Maunalua Bay Beach Park in August 1998 where he met the boy, but that there was no sexual contact between the two.

Defense attorney David Minkin portrayed the boy as a troubled young man who had fought with his brother earlier and didn't want to move to the mainland.

Minkin also noted that the boy, when asked to remember details that happened 18 months ago, responded by asking how is he supposed to remember something that happened five years ago.

"There's something going on in this young man's life that an adult may never correct or cure," Minkin said.

Minkin also criticized police for not recovering any of the boy's clothing or talking to anyone who may have been at the park that night as soon as the boy reported the incident.

Matson testified that he had driven to the park late that night to look for packing boxes to ship his belongings to the mainland and had spotted some at a dumpster.

He began talking with the boy and showed him some magic tricks, including how to levitate. But when Matson realized the illusion wasn't working because the boy wasn't concentrating, he said he ended it and left.

The state argued that Matson took advantage of the boy not by force, but in a "very calculated, cool subtle way" -- by being nice. "He knew exactly what he was doing," Deputy Prosecutor Rom Trader said.

The boy testified that he was lying on a pillar at the park while Matson explained how levitation worked.

He was told to concentrate, focus on an object, and take deep breaths as Matson bent over him and touched him occasionally on the stomach.

The boy said when he felt Matson unbutton his pants and slip a hand inside, he opened his eyes, saw Matson's head descending, shoved the man away and fled.

He said he stopped about 20 yards away and took Matson's license plate number as he drove away.

The boy had no reason or motive to lie about the incident, Trader said. He didn't know Matson before the incident and had "no beef" with him. And he didn't benefit by reporting the incident to police because all he got in return was hurt, embarrassment, pain and shame, Trader said.

Two jurors were dismissed Monday after they admitted to inadvertently hearing TV news teasers about a Catholic priest accused of sexually assaulting a young boy.

The jury had not been told that Matson was a priest because the judge had determined it would not be introduced at trial, Trader said.

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