Prosecutors seek to drop case against man accused of fondling child on airplane

Prosecutors seek to drop case against man accused of fondling child on airplane

(Salt Lake County Jail)

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SALT LAKE CITY — Federal prosecutors have asked a judge to dismiss their case against an Illinois man who was accused in March of fondling a child on a flight from Chicago to Salt Lake City.

Assistant U.S. attorney Alicia Cook, in court papers filed Monday, said she will not seek an indictment against Kevin Charles Matthews "due to insufficient evidence."

Matthews, 48, was charged in March with abusive sexual contact after passengers on a Delta Air Lines flight contacted police to report that Matthews had sexually abused a 3-year-old boy, according to the FBI.

An FBI agent initially interviewed the boy's parents, two other passengers on the flight and Matthews before seeking a warrant for Matthews' arrest, court records show.

The boy's parents said no one in the family was able to sit together on the plane because they were flying standby. The child was seated next to Matthews, while the boy's mother was seated in the same row, but across the center aisle from her son, an FBI agent wrote in an arrest warrant affidavit.

During the flight, Matthews let the boy play with his iPad and iPhone, according to witnesses. The boy's mother told investigators she couldn't really see what was going on the entire time because of where she was sitting.

A woman sitting behind Matthews told investigators that he "appeared to be drunk and was extremely friendly and 'handsy' with (the boy)," court records state. Another woman sitting behind Matthews and the boy agreed that the behavior was "inappropriate and concerning," according to the complaint.

The first woman told the FBI she caught Matthews' with his open hand on the sleeping boy's groin near the end of the flight. She said she confronted Matthews, who denied doing anything wrong and moved his hand to the boy's leg, court records show.

The woman called for a flight attendant and then notified the boy's mother.

Matthews told an FBI agent he'd had "four of five glasses of wine" before and during the flight. "Matthews explained that he was never drunk on the flight and was completely functional, aware and in control of his actions," the agent wrote.

The agent added that Matthews told him he never put his hand on the boy's groin; however, Matthews also said "it was possible that he touched (the boy), but if he did touch (him), it was an accident."

Melodie Rydalch, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office for Utah, said the initial information gathered in March provided sufficient probable cause for a federal magistrate to sign the complaint against Matthews.

In Matthews' case, Rydalch said information developed during the continuing investigation led prosecutors to conclude that they could not meet the required burden of proof at trial.

"Dismissing the complaint was the right thing to do and is clearly in the interest of justice," Rydalch said.

Matthews posted $10,000 bail after his arrest. An email sent to his attorney Thursday seeking comment was not returned. Court records show that a dismissal order has not yet been signed.


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Geoff Liesik


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