Chester man gets 20 years for assault, drug dealing and money laundering
By James Tilson
MANTI—A Chester man who the Sanpete County attorney called the “central nervous system of drug trade in Sanpete County,” was sentenced to up to 20 years in prison last week.
Matthew Thompson, 40, pleaded guilty to charges in four different cases, ranging from aggravated assault to distribution of controlled substances to money laundering.
Thompson faced charges of three third-degree felonies and 10 second degree-felonies. The maximum sentences on all of the charges could have come to 40 years in prison.
Thompson was arrested on Nov. 4, 2018, when a vehicle he was driving was stopped just inside the southern county border on U.S. 89. Almost a pound of methamphetamine was found in the vehicle.
Further investigation of his text messages and social media posts revealed that Thompson had coordinated distribution of illegal drugs throughout Sanpete and Sevier counties over the course of a year.
Kevin Daniels, the Sanpete County attorney, asked Judge Wallace Lee to run sentences on three of Thompson’s cases concurrently, with the case containing nine counts of distribution to run consecutively (e.g. after completion of the three sentences). The final sentence could have extended up to 30 years.
Daniels called Thompson’s criminal activities “the biggest criminal enterprise I’ve ever seen.” He said, “I’m a firm believer that if we remove him from the community, we’ll remove someone that’s been a threat for a long time.”
Daniels also pointed out the investigation, and the digital evidence in particular, showed Thompson was in charge of the enterprise.
Thompson, he noted, has a long criminal history, including 14 prior convictions, three for assault, and one assault on a police officer.
Daniels characterized Thompson as “a predator” and a manipulative person, who had gone so far as to use his own mother and a jail employee to try to intimidate a witness.
Richard Gale, Thompson’s defense attorney, admitted Thompson had pleaded guilty to serious crimes but asked the judge to allow sentences in all of the cases run concurrently.
Among the arguments Gale made were that Thompson had become addicted to methamphetamine in order to deal with social anxiety, but since being in jail, Thompson had started attending church and addiction programs.
As for the charges lodged against Thompson’s mother for helping Thompson tamper with a witness, Gale said, “A mom never gives up on her children” but “the line between support and enabling is difficult to define.”
Gale told Judge Lee, “Fifteen years is more than enough for his crimes. He has a lot of potential. He is charming and intelligent.”
Gale said Thompson has had a hard time getting away from his past. “He was involved in the criminal justice system early and got put in a box,” the attorney said, and needed an opportunity to put the past behind him.
James Thompson, Thompson’s father, argued Thompson wasn’t really violent, and said his son’s co-defendants had turned against him to save themselves.
James Thompson also said the charges against Thompson’s mother were used to get Thompson to enter a plea agreement.
Daniels replied specifically to those allegations, saying, “[Those charges] were not trumped up. Thompson’s history speaks to the enabling behavior of his parents.”
Thompson’s sister, Michelle Hansen, whom even Daniels said was an “excellent person,” spoke on Thompson’s behalf. She told the judge that Thompson’s family was “very emotional today watching him get sentenced.”
Hansen said his family still supported him even though he was convicted of serious crimes. “We don’t support his bad decisions, but we do support him,” she said.
Thompson himself addressed the judge. “I failed, numerous times. It’s hard for me to accept my failures, especially to my family,” he said. “I forgot how much love and support I have out there.”
Thompson became emotional as he asked Judge Lee for lenience. “It’s time for a change. I’m 40 years old. I haven’t amounted to much, but I’d like to.”
Judge Lee, after hearing all the arguments, told the audience he faced a hard decision: “You have to face sentencing as a human, not a computer.” He also said he thought Thompson’s remorse was sincere.
“Your statement was one of the best I’ve ever heard. You’re smart and articulate, and have so much to offer.”
However, Lee felt the charges were too much to ignore. “These charges are very significant. I think you sincerely want to make changes, but I don’t think probation is right for the community.”
Lee sentenced Thompson to zero to five years in prison for all of the third-degree felonies, and one to 15 years in prison on all of the second-degree felonies. At the request of Gale, Lee allowed all of the third-degree cases to run concurrent to each other, and the second-degree cases to run concurrent to each other, and the second-degree cases to be consecutive to the third-degree cases.
Under the sentence as handed down by Lee, Thompson will to serve zero to five years first, and then one to 15 years after that.