Trial starts in rape under downtown Anchorage bridge

Jerzy Shedlock

The trial of 26-year-old Matthew John Jones, who stands accused of raping a young woman beneath a downtown Anchorage bridge in August 2012, began Thursday in Anchorage Superior Court. Jones faces four counts of first-degree sexual assault, second-degree assault and harassment.

Anchorage police arrested Jones shortly after the sexual assault. He was walking east down Third Avenue away from the northbound portion of the bridge that connects downtown to the neighborhood of Government Hill, according to assistant district attorney Jonas Walker.

Jones' accuser fled following the rape across the street to a Howard Johnson hotel, according to the charging document. When officers arrived they found the 20-year-old woman sitting on a lobby couch "with a sheet over her upper body. (The woman) appeared very upset and had several fresh looking bruises and scratch marks on her face, neck and chest," the charges say.

Walker said Jones choked his victim at one point. The charges say "Matthew told her 'it was going to happen one way or another.'" Jones allegedly spit in the woman's face. Sex assault examiners found Jones' DNA in spit on the woman's abdomen, Walker said.

The state says the two met earlier on the night of Aug. 3, 2012. They had consensual sex outside near Ship Creek prior to the rape, Walker said. Later, around 2 a.m. on Aug. 4, Jones offered to walk the woman home. That's when he pulled the victim under the bridge and "repeatedly, violently raped" her, the prosecutor said.

She ran into the nearby hotel wearing nothing but pants. Clerks at the front desk called 911. Walker played the recordings of two calls to police. During the second call, a police dispatcher asked if the assailant was nearby. A hotel employee who peered outside apparently spotted Jones on Third Avenue, first walking, then running when he was pursued by responding officers.

Walker said Jones began running when he saw an approaching cop car; he only stopped when threatened with a Taser.

Also on the recording, the dispatcher asked if the woman needed a paramedic. Responding to the clerk, she said no. Public defender Chong Yim focused on this detail during his brief opening statement. The victim's refusal of medical attention is evidence against the state's "roadmap" of a violent sexual assault, he said.

Instead, both sexual encounters between Jones and the woman were consensual, Yim argued. They were simply moving to a more desirable spot, "albeit not that comfortable," he said. The woman became irate after the second sexual encounter, Yim said, when she said she wanted a relationship and Jones rejected her.

The defense attorney argued Jones showed disinterest and "flipped a dollar" at the woman. Yim said a picture of the dollar lying on the ground will be presented during trial.

Additionally, a mark an investigator reported as a bruise was a hickey, Yim said, adding that the woman admitted as much, and there were no choke marks on her neck.

According to court testimony, Jones refused a plea deal and opted for a jury trial, which is scheduled to continue through next week.

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