BLACKFOOT – KC Michael Mathis, 27, the Blackfoot man who allegedly caused a fire on April 23 that damaged the Carol Street apartment he shared with his family, entered an Alford Plea Monday before 7th District Judge Darren Simpson to felony malicious injury to property and misdemeanor domestic violence charges.
Mathis was originally charged with felony arson and felony domestic violence after police arrested him the night of the fire, but the charges were reduced in a plea bargain with the state in which he agreed to plead guilty.
An Alford Plea means a defendant maintains his innocence while admitting there is sufficient evidence that a jury would find him guilty if he went to trial.
Although Mathis agreed to plead guilty, he appeared reluctant to admit what made him guilty when Simpson questioned him about the incident, saying “I don’t know” when asked how the fire was set.
Prosecutor Paul Rogers then spoke up and said Mathis’ wife was prepared to testify that her husband was lighting matches and throwing them on the floor and the couch and that she picked them off the floor and put them in the trash.
He said the fire started on the couch and burned it down to the metal frame before burning through a patio door.
He said smoke damage to the apartment amounted to $1,000 and that Mathis had matches in his possession when he was arrested that matched those found in the apartment. Rogers said Mrs. Mathis will testify that she was touched unlawfully and her mother will testify that he pulled her hair.
Simpson asked Mathis if it was his statement that his wife was gone when the fire started and the defendant replied ‘yes.”
“How can I accept your plea of guilty when you’re disputing that you intended to inflict injury?” the judge asked.
After more discussion, Simpson asked, “Why are you pleading guilty if you think you have a defense?”
Mathis replied, “I guess I’ll just plead guilty.”
Simpson then asked what he did to his wife to earn the domestic violence charge. Mathis replied “I squoze her neck in a bear hug”
““Did you do it against her will?” Simpson asked. “I did,” Mathis replied.
“About the battery, what did you do?” the judge asked. “I had an altercation with my mother-in-law. My concern is I’m not completely informed about what happened,” Mathis replied.
“You pulled her hair,” Simpson said. “Were you under the influence?” he asked. “Yes sir,” Mathis replied.
Simpson asked Mathis’ public defender Jeffrey Kunz whether he had discussed the implications of the Alford Plea with his client. “I did,” Kunz said. “He believes a jury would find him guilty. That’s why he’s taking the plea bargain.”
Simpson scheduled sentencing of Mathis for June 22 at 3 p.m. and ordered a pre-sentence report with a domestic violence evaluation prior to sentencing. He said the no contact order between Mathis and his family will remain in force until Oct. 21.
Kunz said Mathis has no criminal history and asked that he be released to pretrial services pending sentencing because he wants to work and support his family.
Simpson said once a guilty plea has been made, a defendant is not even entitled to bond. “My concern is I’m not fully informed about what happened. I’m going to deny the motion until I get the domestic violence report,” he said.