TUPPER LAKE - A Franklin County grand jury has cleared a Tupper Lake man of rape and other charges, saying evidence was lacking.
"Now that he has been exonerated of these horrific charges, I feel obligated to stand up to help clear my son's name and try to undo some of the damage to him and our family," his mother, Darcy Matthews wrote last week in a letter to the editor of the Enterprise.
James P. Matthews was 25 years old at the time of his arrest in late April of last year, when Tupper Lake village police charged him with a string of felony and misdemeanor charges including first-degree rape, first-degree criminal sexual act, attempted criminal sexual act, forcible touching and unlawful imprisonment.
The charges stemmed from two incidents reported by women Matthews knew, police said at the time. Matthews was accused of forcibly raping a woman in her 20s outside on Cliff Avenue after leaving the Old Northern Pub in the early morning hours of April 22. Police said Matthews also tried, unsuccessfully, to have sex with a woman in her 30s against her will at a residence in the Lakeview Avenue area.
Franklin County District Attorney Derek Champagne told the Enterprise Tuesday that the grand jury heard testimony from both women and Matthews before deciding in late December not to hand up an indictment.
"The grand jury made a determination there was no reasonable cause to believe a crime was committed," Champagne said.
Asked if the grand jury felt the women had made up the allegations against Matthews, Champagne noted that the panel didn't return any charges of perjury, which it could have done.
"If the grand jury felt the defendant or anyone else who testified had committed perjury then the grand jury absolutely has that prerogative," Champagne said.
The DA said he couldn't comment any further on the specifics of the case because it's now been sealed.
Matthews' mother criticized the news media for not reporting sooner that the rape charges were dropped.
"It is important to members of our community to know that there was never a rapist named James living in our community," Darcy Matthews wrote. "He was a victim himself of lies from some misguided young women, who were convinced to tell the stories they did. There is nothing which can justify telling such damning and hurtful lies against anyone."
Matthews said the allegations against her son affected her entire family, and that he no longer feels like he's part of the community where he's lived his entire life.
"The admitted lies against Jimmy should concern our entire community, not only for our family and situation but for our community overall," she wrote. "If women are allowed to level false accusations against innocent people, those who are hurt in the future may have a more difficult time convincing law enforcement of what has happened to them."
Asked about Darcy Matthews' statements, Champagne said she's free to speak her mind.
"The mother says he was exonerated," he said. "If that's what the mother is saying, she's entitled to her position. A no bill is not an exoneration. It speaks for itself."