Lower Elwha Klallam Tribal Member Sentenced to Prison for Being a Habitual Domestic Abuser
Repeated Assaults of Intimate Partners Prompts Use of Statute Designed to Protect Native Women
An enrolled member of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to 5 years in prison for Domestic Assault by a Habitual Offender, announced U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. MATTHEW TYLER CHARLES, 31, of Port Angeles, pleaded guilty in March 2018, following one day of testimony about his history of assaults on an intimate partner. CHARLES was indicted federally following the October 21, 2017 assault of a woman with whom he had a long-term relationship. At sentencing, U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton said CHARLES “has to pay for what he has done, the havoc he perpetrated in this community.”
“This defendant repeatedly and viciously attacked those he professed to care most about,” said U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. “And when law enforcement stepped in, the defendant tried to pressure the victim to stop co-operating with investigators and prosecutors. But the victim persevered and today justice is served. We will continue to use all available tools to protect the victims of crime in our tribal communities.”
According to records filed in the case and testimony at trial, in the early morning hours of October 21, 2017, the victim arrived at the Lower Elwha Casino. Shortly after her car pulled into the parking lot, the surveillance video shows CHARLES arriving in another vehicle. The video shows CHARLES assaulting the victim, violently shoving her back into the car and physically restraining her when she tried to flee. At one point during the incident, CHARLES brandished a knife. Two witnesses who were in the parking lot alerted casino security. CHARLES left the scene, but was later taken into custody.
CHARLES has four previous convictions related to domestic violence in either state or Tribal court. Two of these convictions arose from assaults in 2006 and 2014 with respect to this same victim that were prosecuted in Clallam County District Court and Superior Court, respectively, and two convictions in Lower Elwha Klallam Tribal court for 2004 and 2010 assaults with respect to this victim and a second victim. Those convictions subject him to prosecution in federal court as a habitual offender.
The case was investigated by the FBI and the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribal Police. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Rebecca S. Cohen and J. Tate London.