Jesse Matthew enters plea in ’05 Virginia sex assault

Matthew Barakat
Associated Press

Fairfax, Va. — Jesse Matthew entered an Alford plea Wednesday on charges that he attacked and molested a woman in Virginia in 2005, acknowledging that prosecutors have enough evidence to convict him without directly admitting any crime.

Matthew faces up to life in prison when sentenced Oct. 2. He entered the form of a guilty plea to all three charges: attempted capital murder, abduction and sexual assault.

Prosecutor Ray Morrogh said Matthew entered the plea without any deal with prosecutors.

Matthew, 33, of Charlottesville, also is charged in a separate case with the abduction and killing last year of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham.

His plea came after the prosecution rested its case with DNA evidence found under the fingernail of the woman who said she was assaulted in the Fairfax case. Defense lawyers tried unsuccessfully to get the judge to strike the case, saying the DNA evidence was insufficient for a conviction and that the victim’s description did not exactly match the way Matthew looked at the time.

The testimony from a forensic scientist was the key evidence against Matthew. Scientist Elizabeth Ballard said the chance of a person other than Matthew being the source of the fingernail DNA is less than one in 7.2 billion.

The victim, who flew back from India to testify, told jurors Monday that her attacker grabbed her just steps from the door to her townhouse and carried her into a darkened area, where he ripped off her clothes and molested her. She fought and scratched him, yielding the crucial DNA evidence, until her attacker ran off as a bystander approached.

The woman did not explicitly identify Matthew as her attacker during her testimony.

The Associated Press generally does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault.