Man Convicted in Child Porn Case Accuses Court Officials of Texting During Trial

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Matthew John Stickle (Photo courtesy Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail)
Matthew John Stickle (Photo courtesy Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail)

A Williamsburg man convicted of possessing and distributing child pornography accused the judge, prosecutor and court reporter in his case of texting each other during his December trial, violating his right to due process.

Matthew John Stickle, 44, was found guilty of 25 felony charges – one charge of possession of child pornography, two charges of a second or subsequent offense of possession of child pornography, and 22 charges of possession of child pornography with intent to distribute – by a jury Dec. 16.

Stickle’s attorney, Patricia Nagel, filed a motion of inquiry – which is not an allegation of wrong-doing but rather a request that the court take up consideration of a particular issue – after the conclusion of the trial based on her client’s belief that court reporter Rebecca Quigley, Commonwealth’s Attorney Nate Green and presiding Judge Michael McGinty may have been texting one another during the trial.

At the outset of Wednesday’s hearing, Nagel formally requested both McGinty and the court reporter present, who was employed by the same company that employs Quigley, recuse themselves from the proceedings since theirs were the actions called into question by her motion of inquiry.

McGinty emphatically denied being party to any improper communications before, during or after the trial and declined to recuse himself or the court reporter.

Nagel went on to present Stickle’s sworn affidavit alleging he noticed a suspicious pattern of texting during a particular portion of the second day of the trial.

The incidents in question occurred during argument over whether the jury, which was out of the room at that time, would be provided with written descriptions of video evidence pertaining to the trial.

Stickle said in his testimony Wednesday that while Nagel was at the podium presenting arguments against the inclusion of the written description, his attention was drawn to Quigley, who had allegedly stopped taking dictation and was apparently texting on her phone while counsel was talking.

“I think the court stenographer is texting Green,” Stickle wrote in a note to Nagel that was entered into evidence.

Stickle suspected Green was the recipient of Quigley’s messages because of a pattern in timing he noticed regarding both party’s phone use.

“It certainly seemed as though every time she would put down the phone, he would pick up his phone,” Stickle said.

Stickle went on to say that he even noticed McGinty checking his phone shortly after either Green or Quigley seemed to be sending a message, leading him to believe all three of them were texting one another.

Quigley took the stand to testify about her phone usage during the trial, concurring with Green and McGinty’s prior statements that it is not unusual for any of them to check their phones during the course of a lengthy trial in order to check in with their respective offices or remain accessible in the case of emergency situations in their personal lives.

Quigley maintained she would never have stopped taking dictation while things were being said in the courtroom, but that it was possible she had checked her phone during lulls in the long trial. She also denied texting Green or any other party in the courtroom.

Nagel countered that regardless of who Quigley was texting or what exactly she was doing, her cell phone use presented an issue for the defense.

“She was distracted, and there could very well be an issue of if we have an accurate record to take up on appeal,” Nagel said. “I have no confidence in this court reporting company at this point.”

McGinty denied Nagel’s motion to have the audio recordings of the trial, in addition to Quigley’s transcript, made part of the official record that will be considered by the appeals court.

Green was the next to take the stand, and he reiterated his earlier statement that while he may have used his phone to conduct research or review documents relating to the trial, he did not text anyone while the judge was on the bench.

“I had my cell phone at the table and I was using it for a number of different things,” Green said.

Green also said he volunteered to show a printed-out transcript of the messages he sent and received on the day in question to a mutually agreed-upon third party, but that he was unwilling to turn them over directly to Nagel.

“I do have some reservations about handing them over to you directly because some of them were of a personal nature and I don’t have confidence you wouldn’t use them against me in an inappropriate way,” Green said to Nagel during questioning.

Nagel called Lonette Woods, Stickle’s sister, to testify next about her observations regarding the apparent cell phone use during the trial.

“OMG, did you see the texting from court reporter [and] Nate to [the] judge?” Woods wrote in a portion of a message passed back and forth between her and her mother during the trial. “Is that allowed?”

Woods testified that “it appeared very obvious that these three individuals were responding to each other” but that she could not say for sure whether they might have been using their phones for something else and the timing was coincidental.

At the conclusion of the testimony, McGinty ruled there was no need for further inquiry into the case.

Nagel had also filed motions to set aside the verdicts in the trial, but the parties in the court mutually agreed to take those up at a later date.

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