Lawyer: ‘Reverse discrimination’ keeps NJ man jailed in racist-attack case
MOUNT LAUREL — A township man should not have been locked up for more than 200 days since his arrest in July on bias intimidation charges, according to a statement his lawyer provided to New Jersey 101.5 on Wednesday.
In the emailed response to a 15-count indictment handed up last Friday against Edward Mathews, 46, attorney Craig Mitnick did not deny that Mathews spewed racially-charged profanities at his Mount Laurel neighbors, some of which was captured on cell phone video and posted to social media.
Nor did Mitnick dispute the offensive nature of what the videos revealed Mathews to have said, calling it "unequivocally inappropriate, insulting, and unacceptable." But he also said his client's comments did not have violent intent.
"They do not rise to the alarming level or high legal standard required to strip Mr. Mathews of his liberty," Mitnick's statement said, adding that Mathews continues to be held at the Burlington County Jail "without consideration of release."
Following a 2017 law to change the state's bail system, most criminal defendants released with jail with conditions before their trails unless the courts determine that they pose a flight risk or a threat to the public.
Citing the protest at Mathews' home that followed the initial July 2 incident, Mitnick suggested Mathews has been a victim of reverse discrimination, "detained, excessively charged and now unfairly indicted, primarily because of the white color of his skin."
"There should be no difference, whether Black, white, Asian or Latino, but unfortunately here there is," Mitnick's statement said, blaming the current political and cultural climates. "Any discrimination, whether 'traditional discrimination' or 'reverse discrimination,' is categorically wrong."
Shooting at cars and smeared feces
The Burlington County Prosecutor's Office said Tuesday that a search of Mathews' home yielded a slingshot and ball bearings which matched projectiles aimed at multiple damaged vehicles in Mathews' neighborhood, as well as hallucinogenic, psilocin mushrooms.
Investigators confiscated the weapons and drugs after Mount Laurel police were granted an extreme risk protection order against Mathews because one of the victims reported that she suspected Mathews had fired a BB gun at her and her daughter's cars, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said he caused $2,350 in damage to the vehicles. He's also charged with stalking one of the vehicle owners.
Additional FBI analysis of Mathews' handwriting tied him to a threatening note left on a neighbor's vehicle on which feces had also been smeared, prosecutors said.
Mathews was originally charged after police responded on July 2, 2021 to residents' complaints that he was using racial slurs toward them. The complaints prompted a boisterous protest outside his home.
Prosecutors noted that police had tried to arrest Mathews on the initial charges but a Municipal Court judge rejected the request, issuing the charges through court summons.
The indictment handed up last Friday charges Mathews with second-degree possession of a controlled dangerous substance with intent to distribute, third-degree possession of a controlled dangerous substance, two counts of third-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, two counts of fourth-degree unlawful possession of a weapon, one count each of fourth-degree stalking and criminal mischief, four counts of fourth-degree bias intimidation, and three counts of fourth-degree certain persons not to have weapons.
Charges will 'fail at trial'
Mitnick said a presumption of guilt has usurped a presumption of innocence in today's society, which is to blame for Mathews having "not been afforded the same fairness as others prosecuted for similar offenses in the past."
The lawyer did not explicitly call for Mathews' immediate release in his response, but did predict that the "unfounded" allegations against his client will "undoubtedly fail at trial."
"Edward Mathews may be guilty of using the most inappropriate and offensive racial slurs, but to remain behind bars without consideration of release and face an indictment which carries state prison time, chills the very core of our Constitution," Mitnick wrote.
New Jersey 101.5 was unable to immediately connect with Mitnick for further comment Wednesday.
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