Prosecutors emphasized that even though Hickey had his charges reduced for a plea deal, what he did was rape.
Prosecutors emphasized that even though Hickey had his charges reduced for a plea deal, what he did was rape. Jason Redmond


This post has been updated.

Matt Hickey, the Seattle freelance journalist who ran a porn scam for more than a decade and was accused of rape by seven women, has been sentenced to nearly three years in prison.

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Four women were able to file formal charges against Hickey, and he eventually took a plea deal for a felony sex offense and three counts of assault. As a result of that plea deal, prosecutors and Hickey's defense recommended a 30-month sentence. But today, after those four women read victim impact statements to the court and Judge Mary Roberts reviewed the testimony of the accusers who weren't able to file charges, Judge Roberts gave Hickey the maximum 34-month sentence in a state prison facility, a place on the sex offender registry, and three years of community custody after he's released.

Judge Roberts said she wished she could have sentenced Hickey longer, consecutively for all his crimes, but was limited by the law. She also prohibited Hickey from using the internet to solicit contact with women during his probation.

The women who accused Hickey of fraud or rape originating with his porn scam, as well as the ones who accused him of raping them after he drugged them or got them too drunk to consent, came forward well before the #MeToo moment. Some involved in the porn scam faced scrutiny because they were young, or aspiring sex workers, or in other cases, because the statute of limitations on their rape allegations had long expired.

But today, prosecutors, both of whom were also women, emphasized that despite Hickey’s negotiated charges, they still considered him a serial rapist. In their victim statements, the women described rapes. In the plea deal, Hickey admitted to three felony counts of “indecent liberties” and assault, but did not plead guilty to rape. In a lengthy July 2016 e-mail to The Stranger, Hickey also denied three of the first rape allegations.

“His pattern was to sexually assault multiple women when they were passed out or almost passed out,” prosecutor Carla Carlstrom told the judge. Hickey relied on that tactic, Carlstrom said, because he knew it would cast doubt on his victims’ memories. "Oh, I thought you were into it,” Carlstrom said Hickey told his victims.

That tactic is the same reason that courts don’t typically see these kinds of rape cases, both prosecutors (and Judge Roberts, at a later point) acknowledged. “Often that's why the state isn't even able to file charges,” Carlstrom said.

But several women did come forward in this case, even more than the four who were able to file charges.

One of the plaintiffs, herself an attorney, highlighted the injustice of that fact alone.

“He is a serial rapist,” she said, addressing Judge Roberts. “And one of the things I wish you could help me with, that you can't, is that there are only four of us because the rules are what the rules are, and there are [other] women, I've read their statements, the things that happened to them are just as bad as what happened to me.”

That same woman, who went by the initials HR, described a night when she got “one or two drinks” with Hickey. After he bought her a third one, she blacked out, she said.

“I was unconscious for probably 12 hours, and the only way I know that is from the last text message I could find in my phone," HR said. "And when I woke up I had barely any clothes on and he was assaulting me, and trying to push me down, asking for a blowjob, things like that."

“That's after 12 hours of God knows what he did to me when I was unconscious. When I sat up, I realized there was towel on the bed, and when I asked him why that was there, he said that I had vomited. So I had projectile vomited over half his bed. And this man proceeded to sexually assault me next to my own vomit.”

But there was one reason she was able to file charges, HR said.

“The only reason I get to do that is because because I had a sister who really loved me and she pushed me to file a police report, and because of that, my statute kept running,” she said.

“I came forward, much like some of the other girls, not having to do anything with me, but for the love of other women and wanting to protect other women. And one of the greatest tragedies I have come to realize in this is I didn't actually help everyone, because some of these girls mostly didn’t have a sister like mine, or who were just so upset they couldn't fathom coming forward, or who had been successfully manipulated by him into believing it didn't really happen or it was their fault, didn’t make a report, and time ran out for them.”

The three other women who spoke cited similar reasons for coming forward. They also expressed anger at the reduced charges, but acknowledged that, given the system’s limitations, it was likely the best outcome they could get.

“I'm terrified the patterns will repeat,” Jasie Jackson, who had a similar experience to HR’s, told Judge Roberts. “When I came forward it was less for myself and more to make sure this could never happen again to anyone else.”

Jackson stressed that she wanted Hickey’s social media activities to be monitored during his community custody, because that was his primary method of deceptively gaining the trust of his victims. “I don't want this to be something that can be walked on from, or moved on from, because it isn't for us,” Jackson said. “I want to make sure this is something that can never happen again.”

The women also stressed the enduring impacts the assaults had, and will continue to have, on their lives.

One woman, 17 at the time of the assault, said through a victim advocate she was unconscious for 12 hours after she got home because of whatever substance she was allegedly given.

“Sometimes the memory still sometimes makes me panic, dissociate,” she said. “The isolation is common even four years later. I thought it was my fault. I told no one, and isolated myself from friends and family.”

“To Matt,” she continued, “I would hope you understand the gravity of what you did. You knowingly deceived and lured girls. I was 17. Because of you, my entire world was deemed unsafe. And while I can heal and recover, that day will affect me for the rest of my life.”

Another woman, CW, described a similar, world-shifting loss of trust as the result of her assault.

“Before reading that article [about Hickey’s porn scam] about 18 months ago, I managed to compartmentalize what happened to me so well, and that day it came rushing back in a really visceral way,” another woman, CW, said. “Looking back I didn’t even realize the ways it impacted me.”

“I keep my body covered,” she continued. “I question people’s motives who talk to me. My group of male friends is about down to three and I still don’t spend time alone with them. He took away my ability to trust. I don't know if I'll ever get that back.”

But CW said she had hope Hickey’s sentence could give her a sense of closure. “I’m thankful this was brought to the surface and I didn’t have to keep it in,” she said. “And maybe the wounds will begin to heal.”

CW also addressed Hickey directly. “Matt, the part of me that was your friend is so sad for you,” she said. “I know behavior like this doesn't happen in a vacuum. I'm so sorry for whatever happened in your life to make you this way. I know you didn't wake up one day and decide to be a serial rapist. I hope you find yourself some way to heal.”

When it came time for Hickey’s publicly appointed defense attorney, James Bible, to speak, he said it was his client’s idea to take the plea deal and not go through with a trial.

Bible also cited Hickey’s social awkwardness as a reason he perhaps ended up the way he did.

“As early as kindergarten he started to develop a remarkable stuttering problem,” Bible said. “He was usually the kid who was left out of everything. He was beaten up, bullied, told he was not special, told he wasn't handsome. That went all the way through high school until he quit and he dropped out.”

(This attempt to elicit sympathy for Hickey and perhaps explain his behavior drew some looks of open-mouthed disbelief from the bench of Hickey’s victims. “You can quote my facial expressions,” one later told The Stranger.)

But Bible urged Judge Roberts to accept the 30-month sentence the defense and prosecutors worked out.

“All I’m saying that is I think I could have won some of these [cases],” Bible said. “I think I might have won all of them. The state knew it, too. That's why they made this resolution. And the person who sought this resolution at all is Matt Hickey.”

After both victims and the defense had spoken, Judge Roberts said she hoped the victims understood “the difficulty in proving cases of this nature,” and cited that as a reason victims of this crime often don’t come forward at all.

Judge Roberts also acknowledged letters she had received from women who weren’t able to file charges, including letters from the women who first spoke up about and investigated Hickey’s porn scam among themselves.

“I know that more than what the convictions show happened, and I understand that,” she said. “I recognize that. I also agree with all of the attorneys that this is a sensible result, which I'm sure sounds crazy in a lot of ways,” she added.

But Roberts praised the women who spoke out.

“You have incredible courage and strength and of most surprising to me, generosity, especially the one of who mentioned you hoped Mr. Hickey would overcome this and that you felt sad for him,” she said. “It’s generosity almost beyond understanding and I appreciate that.”

And Roberts added that she hoped this case might encourage more women to speak out about similar experiences.

“I hope that the strength that the victims in these cases have shown will make it easier for other women to come forward,” she said.

“One of you mentioned Mr. Hickey might think he was lucky,” Judge Roberts said. “I don't think there was any luck involved. The facts in this case show calculation and really horrendous, horrendous acts.”