By BRAD ROLLINS
On a Tuesday afternoon in December 2005, cops showed up at Matthew Todd Ferguson’s North LBJ Street apartment, handed him search and arrest warrants and took him to jail.
Ferguson, 33, was accused of sexually assaulting a 23-year-old woman at his home the weekend before.
What investigators found inside proved even more disturbing, more than a dozen videotapes of Ferguson having sex with women who apparently did not know they were being filmed. It fell on San Marcos police Sgt. Penny Dunn, the investigations division head, to review the hours of footage and, ultimately, identify and interview the women. Ultimately, she counted 18 different women in tapes that had been shot with a concealed camera at Ferguson’s apartment here, where he attended Texas State, and his previous residence in Waco, where he went to Baylor.
“They were graphic and brutal images,” Dunn said, “including images of two sexual assaults that occurred in Waco.”
In newspapers and on TV, officials appealed for women who hooked up with Ferguson, or were raped by him, to call police. In the next few weeks, Dunn and other detectives here found five women who had sex with Ferguson. Waco police found another five including one who said Ferguson had raped her.
On top of the two sexual assault charges, Ferguson now faced multiple counts in two counties for improper photography/visual recording, a state jail felony. Already a convicted felon for the rape of a 20-year-old woman in Michigan, authorities’ case against him seemed strong.
In this case, the evidence was the crime.
Before Ferguson went on trial in state District Judge Bill Henry’s court in San Marcos, however, then-District Attorney Mike Wenk abruptly dropped the Hays County charges. Ferguson was transferred to McLennan County to stand trial for two second-degree felony sexual assault charges as well as 10 counts of improper photography/visual recording, a state jail felony. He stayed there on more than half-million dollar’s bail for more than a year awaiting a court date.
Finally, with a trial approaching last fall, Ferguson agreed with prosecutors to plead guilty to one sexual assault charge and take an 11 year sentence. State District Judge Matt Johnson, however, threw out the sentence, telling attorneys for both sides that the penalty was too light especially given Ferguson’s predatory history and previous sexual assault conviction.
Instead, the judge ordered a trial on all 11 charges. Testimony was just getting underway when Ferguson and the McLennan County District Attorney’s office reached a deal for 25 years in prison — 11 years for the sexual assault charge and three consecutive prisons totaling 25 years for three of the improper visual recordings.
Ferguson no doubt deserves it. Even after Johnson’s intervention more than doubled his client’s prison sentence, Ferguson’s attorney, Gerald Goldstein told a Waco Herald-Tribute reporter that the sentence was “an amicable and fair compromise.”
With Ferguson ineligible for parole for more than eight years — a quarter of his sentence — it may be a moot issue. But the story of why Wenk, now a San Marcos criminal defense attorney, dropped the charges is a look at Hays County’s sometimes peculiar strains of justice and politics.Email | Print