Preliminary hearing set for Chester man accused of drug-dealing scheme
By James Tilson
MANTI—A Chester man alleged to be at the head of a scheme to distribute illegal drugs from Arizona to Utah is scheduled to have his preliminary hearing on April 16 in the Manti District Court.
Matthew Thompson, 39, has eight separate cases with a variety of charges, ranging from aggravated assault to witness tampering to money laundering. However, the most serious charges arise from an arrest on Nov. 4, 2018, when Thompson and three co-defendants, Ashlyn Ehler, Geoff Wade and Michelle Gatti, were stopped on U.S. 89 just north of the Sanpete County line.
At that time, Thompson and his co-defendants were found to have approximately one pound of methamphetamine they had purchased in Arizona to sell in Utah. Based on the stop, and the investigation arising from it, Thompson was charged with nine counts of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute, a second-degree felony. Each count carries a potential sentence of one to 15 years in prison.
Thompson also has been charged with one count of possession with intent to distribute, as a first-degree felony. Those crimes carry a potential sentence of five years to life in prison.
Sanpete County Attorney Kevin Daniels filed several of the cases only recently, including the witness tampering case. Daniels said the witness tampering cases involved allegations Thompson tried to contact a witness in one of his cases while he was in custody, with the assistance of his mother, Kathleen Thompson, and a jail employee, Cassie Yale. Both Kathleen Thompson and Yale have been charged, and Yale has been fired from her position with the jail.
“Witness tampering is a very serious charge,” said Daniels. “It goes toward the integrity of the judicial system, to get to the facts and find out ‘what is the truth’.” Daniels explained he filed the additional charges, which all related to the original charges, when Thompson rejected his plea offer and moved to go forward to trial.
“It’s always possible to resolve the case,” Daniels said. “But the likelihood has gone down with the passage of time. There are certain outcomes, my ‘line in the sand’, beyond which I will not go.”
A preliminary hearing is held to determine whether the State has enough evidence that a defendant committed a crime. If the judge determines the State has met its burden, then the case will be held over for trial. As far as Daniels is concerned, he thinks that is where Thompson’s case is headed. “We’re going to move forward to trial.”