Grand Forks man gets life in prison for sexually abusing child
Matthew Lyons was sentenced Thursday to life in prison for sexually abusing a girl for years in Grand Forks starting when she was 6. In a quiet but steady voice, the victim spoke at the sentencing hearing, asking state District Judge Sonja Clapp ...
Matthew Lyons was sentenced Thursday to life in prison for sexually abusing a girl for years in Grand Forks starting when she was 6.
In a quiet but steady voice, the victim spoke at the sentencing hearing, asking state District Judge Sonja Clapp to put Lyons “in jail to around 30 years,” and described the way the abuse had hurt her.
She has moved away from Grand Forks. Three of her relatives also gave statements before Clapp sentenced Lyons, who has been in the Grand Forks County jail since his arrest Aug. 8.
It was the worst case of sexual abuse of a minor in the community in years, Jason McCarthy, assistant state’s attorney for Grand Forks County told Clapp. He recommended a sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole for Lyons, who is 37.
McCarthy listed details of 10 previous cases in the past decade in Grand Forks of sexual abuse of minors.
“None of these cases comes even close, or holds a candle to the facts we have in this case,” he told Clapp.
Clapp followed the prosecution’s recommendation, which includes the state law’s provision that Lyons will not be eligible for parole until he’s served 30 years, less time off for good behavior and the nearly eight months he’s served in jail.
She also ordered if he’s paroled, that he serve out his life on supervised probation as a registered sex offender.
Lyons, who pleaded guilty in January to the single count of Class AA felony of continuous sexual abuse of a child, said nothing during his two-hour sentencing hearing.
He earlier turned down an informal offer of life with parole on the count that carries a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole.
His attorney, Clint Morgenstern, put Stacey Benson, a Fargo psychologist, on the stand as an expert witness who said Lyons tested as a moderate to low risk to re-offend.
McCarthy pressed Benson on whether her examination of Lyons didn’t show Lyon’s risk to be re-convicted, rather than to re-offend.
Lyons has no previous criminal record, Morgenstern said in asking Clapp to sentence Lyons to 60 years with 15 years suspended, which is what a probation officer recommended after a pre-sentence investigation.
“This is a horrible crime,” but that it would be wrong “to paint him as evil and a monster,” Morgenstern said. “He is mentally damaged, there’s something wrong with him for being able to do that.”
But his psychological evaluation appears to show he could be rehabilitated over time, said Lyons’ attorney.
Judge Clapp told Lyons despite his lack of a formal history of prior crimes, during the several years of his sexual attacks on the girl, “it was a Double A felony each time. So there is a history. It’s just that you weren’t caught.”