Gust Pleads Guilty to Attempted Sexual Assault

May 14, 2013

On Monday, Matthew Gust, 32, pleaded guilty to attempted sexual assault of a female in Dillingham last summer. He was sentenced to three years in jail.

DILLINGHAM:  At 3:35am on July 22nd last year, Dillingham police were notified that a rape had occurred in the area called "Gypsy Corner" at the PAF Boatyard.    

The victim was reported to be intoxicated and unresponsive; she was taken to the hospital. During a SART exam at the hospital the next day, she told police she had no memory of the incident.

Matthew Gust, 32, of New Stuyahok, cooperated with the police investigation, and was arrested a few days later. He admitted to laying the woman down beneath a boat and having what he thought was consensual sex with her, even though she appeared to be passed out. Gust later wrote a letter to the victim, admitting his actions and apologizing.      

Having sex with a person who is incapacitated is charged as sexual assault in the second degree, but prosecutors offered Gust a deal to plead guilty to attempted sexual assault in the second degree, which carries a lighter sentence.

On Monday at the courthouse in Dillingham, Gust accepted that deal and plead guilty.  He'll spend part of the next three years in prison. 

John Skidmore is the Director of the Alaska Department of Law Criminal Division:

"Sexual assault in the second degree has a presumptive sentencing range of anywhere from five-to-fifteen years. An attempted sexual assault in the second degrees carries a presumptive range of two-to-twelve. So the three years he was given to serve is actually pretty close to the minimum of what he would've received had he gone to trial and we had convicted him."

With no prior criminal history, Skidmore says it's likely a judge would have imposed the minimum sentence had Gust been convicted at trial.

According to Skidmore, the State often prefers the certainty of a guilty plea, even with a lesser charge and shorter sentence, over the uncertainty of going to trial.

"We never charge a case in which we don't think the evidence exists, but there's always the chance that the jury will disagree with our assessment of that. That's the role of a jury," said Skimore. "One of the reasons you engage in plea negotiations is to bring certainty. The defendant has some certainty as to the type of charge he or she will be convicted, or the type of sentence that they might receive. And the victim has some certainty that someone has been convicted."

Gust was remanded to custody following his sentencing. Accounting for time already served and eligibility for parole, he could be out of prison in just over a year's time. Gust will remain on probation for a decade, and will be required to register as a sex offender for the next 15 years.