Mathewson pleads guilty, gets 15 years in prison

Dr. Francois Claassens, in an interview yesterday, said that William Mathewson, who stabbed him in the neck with a spear, had been building up resentment for an unknown reason. Mathewson pleaded guilty yesterday and was slapped with a 15-year imprisonment. (Ferdie de la Torre)

Dr. Francois Claassens, in an interview yesterday, said that William Mathewson, who stabbed him in the neck with a spear, had been building up resentment for an unknown reason. Mathewson pleaded guilty yesterday and was slapped with a 15-year imprisonment. (Ferdie de la Torre)

William Kapono Mathewson entered a guilty plea yesterday and was slapped with a 15-year prison term for stabbing Dr. Francois Claassens with a fishing spear in the neck at the doctor’s house on Rota in April 2015.

Mathewson, 37, signed a plea deal with the government and pleaded guilty to assault with a dangerous weapon and attempted assault with a dangerous weapon.

Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho accepted Mathewson’s guilty plea and sentenced him to the maximum 15 years imprisonment as the plea deal recommended.

Camacho ordered the defendant to serve the prison term day for day without the possibility of parole, early release or work release.

Mathewson was given credit of one year and 114 days of time served.

Before he was sentenced, Mathewson read a prepared note. He apologized to the court, to the victim and his family, and to the people of Rota and the CNMI for the crimes he committed.

The defendant said he is taking responsibility of his crimes.

“I’m glad that he’s alive today,” said Mathewson, referring to the 62-year-old Claassens.

Mathewson said he is hoping that one day both their families will cope with this tragedy.

Camacho allowed Claassens to speak before the change of plea proceeding commenced.

Claassens thanked his wife Vangie, for bringing the family together and supporting him throughout his ordeal.

“You’ve been with me throughout this time,” he said.

For his 13-year-old son, Claassens said he is very proud of him because he immediately called the police and the ambulance.

“You saved your Dad’s life,” the doctor said to his son, who attended the hearing along with his mother and three siblings.

Claassens thanked the people of Rota for taking care of him after his injury.

“The people of Rota are good people. They treat people with respect. This person [Mathewson] is not fit to be in our community,” the doctor said.

Claassens said he was informed about the terms of the plea agreement and that he is satisfied with it.

He said he just want his son to be spared from additional trauma with another interrogation if the case proceeds to trial.

Claassens said it is important that Mathewson will be removed from the society for a long time.

“I hope as a family we can move on,” the doctor told the media after the hearing.

Claassens said he is very assured that the community of Rota is free from this “dangerous person.”

“The people of Rota are gentle, and they treat each other with respect. And they take care of their children. This person is not one of us,” he said.

The doctor said the injuries affected his balance and severely affected his hearing.

“I am glad that I able to work again and I can provide medical service to the community,” said Claassens, who returned back to Rota Commonwealth Health Center four months ago. He has been working at Rota Health Center for the past 10 years.

Asked about the motive of the attack, Claassens said Mathewson had been building up resentment for an unknown reason over some time and that he does not know why.

“I totally don’t know why,” he said.

Before the incident, Claassens said he was Mathewson’s treating physician for his psychiatric problems.

Claassens said he was treating Mathewson under the direction from a psychiatrist from the Commonwealth Health Center.

Assistant attorney general Chester Hinds, counsel for the government, said Claassens wants closure of this case for him and his family and closure for his son.

In an interview, Hinds said if they would’ve gone to trial on the attempted murder, the maximum sentence would have been 20 years.

“So I think that in light of everything…like the doctor wanting to spare his son from the trial and everything that has been going on. The 15 years is a fair deal,” the prosecutor said.

According to the factual basis of the plea agreement, on April 4, 2015 on Rota, Mathewson attempted to strike Claassens with a metal pot. He then caused serious bodily injury when he stabbed/drove a spear through the neck of Claassens.

The Office of the Attorney General recently requested the court to dismiss the attempted murder in the first degree and other charges—aggravated assault and battery, and two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon.

OAG requested the court to instead file Mathewson with two charges—assault with a dangerous weapon and attempted assault with a dangerous weapon. Camacho granted the government’s request.

The jury trial was supposed to commence on Rota on Oct. 11, 2016.

Mathewson, a farmer/fisherman, stabbed the then-60-year-old Claassens in the neck with a fishing spear and clubbed him on the head with a big pot and chain, police said.

The brutal attack happened in the backyard of the doctor’s house in Teneto Village on Rota on April 4, 2015. Mathewson’s house is located near the doctor’s residence.

Assistant public defender Michael Sato had earlier disclosed that his client, Mathewson, will rely upon the defense of insanity at the time when he committed the alleged crimes.

Sato informed the court yesterday that according to the mental evaluation of Dr. Martin Blinder, the defendant is competent to proceed with the trial.

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Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a veteran journalist who has covered all news beats in the CNMI. Born in Lilo-an, Cebu City in the Philippines, De la Torre graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He is a recipient of many commendations and awards, including the CNMI Judiciary’s prestigious Justice Award for his over 10 years of reporting on the judiciary’s proceedings and decisions. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@saipantribune.com

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