After sex assault plea, focus shifts to student’s slaying

(Photo: William J. Hennessy Jr.)

FAIRFAX, Va. (WRIC/AP) — On Wednesday, Jesse Matthew, Jr. admitted prosecutors had enough evidence to convict him of attacking and sexually assaulting a woman in Fairfax back in 2005.

Matthew’s surprise Alford plea — a type of guilty plea in which he acknowledged the evidence against him without an explicit admission of guilt — in Fairfax County shifted focus to what now looms: a capital murder trial in Albemarle County for the highly publicized abduction and death last year of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham.

Matthew is still facing charges in the Hannah Graham case out of Charlottesville. 8News asked a legal analyst how, if at all, Wednesday plea could impact the pending trial.

Legal Analyst Russ Stone says it’s very unusual to do so at that point in a trial. Stone says that usually happens before any evidence is ever presented. He says Matthew and the defense may have wanted to see the evidence first, and then decided the verdict was not going to go their way.

The Fairfax conviction will not be able to be brought up during the Hannah Graham trial, but if Matthew is convicted of her murder, it will have an impact during his sentencing there.

“The fact that he’s been convicted of a rape and the other offenses in Fairfax will come out and either the jury or the judge deciding that case will be allowed to consider that for sentencing purposes,” said Stone.

Matthew will go to trial in Charlottesville at a hearing on June 25.

Stay with 8News for continuous coverage.

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