Matthews' record expunged in Montco

Former Montco Commissioner James Matthews wasn't in court.
Former Montco Commissioner James Matthews wasn't in court.
Posted: October 27, 2013

NORRISTOWN The criminal allegations levied against Jim Matthews, a former Montgomery County commissioner charged with false swearing last year, were wiped clear in court on Friday.

But the way the process concluded - usually a simple judicial step - was shrouded in mystery.

Matthews' expungement hearing was delayed twice over the last 10 days, and lawyers met behind closed doors for about 30 minutes Friday before the judge addressed the court.

The final order he read contained an addendum scrawled in pen: The grand jury transcripts and exhibits that led to Matthews' charge would not be among the materials to be expunged.

Neither the District Attorney's Office nor Matthews' legal team would comment on whether the fate of the grand jury materials was the source of the delay.

But some watching the case were hard-pressed to imagine another reason.

"I conclude from all of this that's going on that Matthews was trying to add in the grand jury stuff" to the expungement agreement, said Bruce Castor, a county commissioner who served alongside Matthews and who for years traded allegations of misconduct and corruption with him.

Castor, also a former district attorney, added that judges often sign expungement orders without a hearing, and that he thought Matthews wanted the grand jury testimony expunged in order to prevent it from being used in future cases against him.

"It sort of begs the question, what's in those things that he's afraid of?" Castor said.

Matthews' attorney, Jud Aaron, said speculation that Matthews wanted to expunge incriminating materials was "dead wrong."

Asked whether Matthews wanted to expunge the grand jury report, Aaron declined to comment.

Matthews, 64, of Lower Gwynedd, was charged with perjury and false swearing after a grand jury spent 18 months investigating the previous county administration's practices and business dealings.

False swearing is a misdemeanor that would amount to perjury except it is not committed in a judicial proceeding.

Matthews, Castor, and former Commissioner Joseph M. Hoeffel 3d were among those investigated, but only Matthews was charged.

In July 2012, Matthews agreed to pay $12,000 to an educational nonprofit and enter the probationary program. The program does not require an admission of guilt from defendants, and the charges were expunged from Matthews' record Friday.

Matthews was not in court when the judge ordered his record cleared.

But Aaron said afterward he was delighted to have reached the end of the case.

"The parties have agreed to and are pleased with this agreement," he said.


cpalmer@phillynews.com

609-217-8305

@cs_palmer

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