After more than a month in a Nevada jail, accused rapist Matt Hickey was called in front of King County Superior Court judge Julie Spector on November 29 to be arraigned on three charges of rape in the second degree.
Hickey has also been accused by multiple women of posing as an online porn recruiter for years in order to lure them to his home under the pretenses of a fake “audition.” But the rape charges being pressed by the King County prosecuting attorney stem from accusations connected to encounters with Hickey that go beyond his alleged porn audition scam.
According to his accusers and King County prosecutors, Hickey’s arraignment represented the first time in the 40-year-old man’s life that he has been legally forced to answer for alleged rapes that have stretched back a decade. Hickey, a Capitol Hill tech freelancer who once contributed to The Stranger and Forbes, wore a dark-red jumpsuit with his characteristic thick beard and black frame glasses, and said nothing in court but briefly scratched his forehead as the prosecutor spoke. Through his lawyer, he pleaded not guilty to all three counts of second-degree rape.
The path to Hickey's arraignment began earlier this year, when six women told The Stranger that Hickey had posed as a female porn recruiter online and used his online persona to try to con them into participating in the fake audition. Hickey's online persona turned out to be a composite of the identities of two women, neither of whom had any idea of what Hickey was doing. After the six women came forward to accuse Hickey of running this scam—with two of those six women alleging that he raped them during their "audition"—three additional women told The Stranger that Hickey had raped them after getting them too drunk to consent.
The earliest of these alleged rapes, which was reported in The Stranger this summer, took place in 2001. Haley Byrd, who is now 36, told The Stranger that after her alleged rape, she tried to anonymously warn people about Hickey by scrawling "Matt Hickey is a rapist" on the walls of Olympia bar bathrooms. Byrd's closest friends from that time told The Stranger that they also tried to warn others, but nobody believed them. (In response to questions from The Stranger in July, Hickey denied the three additional incapacitated rape allegations, including Byrd's.)
Byrd's case can no longer be prosecuted because of the state's statute of limitations on rape cases, which is 10 years if the rape is reported to police within a year, three years if it isn't. But nearly three months after Hickey's denial, King County prosecutors, citing The Stranger's reporting, charged Hickey with three counts of rape in the second degree for the rapes he allegedly committed outside of the "audition" scam.
Two of these charges involve accusers who had shared their stories with The Stranger for a July 20 article. Charging documents show that the accuser at the center of the third charge claims Hickey raped her after she agreed to shoot non-nude photographs with him when she was 17 years old. The documents say that Hickey gave her a drink after telling her "she looked nervous," and that she doesn't remember very much—other than brief flashes of Hickey penetrating her—after that.
Even after the charges against Hickey were announced on October 13, getting him to appear in King County Superior Court turned out to be an ordeal of its own. Hickey had relocated to Las Vegas (after being contacted by The Stranger about the rape allegations), and his arraignment was initially postponed because, while in custody in Las Vegas, Hickey refused to sign an extradition waiver. At his November 29 arraignment, Hickey's temporary attorney, public defender James Bible, told Judge Spector that Hickey had not been made aware of what the extradition waiver actually meant and that's why he delayed signing it.
Bible asked the court to set Hickey's bail at $15,000. But prosecutors, citing The Stranger's reporting on Hickey's activities following the published allegations—including putting up a post on FetLife saying he was a screenwriter looking for "sluts" in Las Vegas—asked the judge to set bail at $200,000 instead.
"The state's concerned both that the defendant represents a flight risk and a danger to the community, particularly women," King County deputy prosecutor Bridgette Maryman told the judge. "The certification for determination of probable cause outlines a pattern of behavior that indicates that the defendant has preyed upon women for over a decade. It's the state's position that the defendant remains a threat to women and should remain in custody."
Judge Spector set bail at $200,000. She also issued sexual assault protection orders on behalf of Hickey's accusers.
King County prosecutors told The Stranger that Hickey has hired a private attorney and potentially faces more than a decade in prison based on the current charges. Prosecutors also told Judge Spector that they are continuing to investigate the possibility of additional charges.
At this point, Hickey could either take a plea deal—which would involve pleading guilty for potentially reduced charges and punishment—or push for a trial, which would likely involve the cross-examination of his accusers.
Hickey's next court date is tentatively set for December 13, but that will likely change.