Just reading the 12 felonies Mathew Melnar is charged with took up 10 minutes of his half hour arraignment last Wednesday.
The 36-year-old Cody resident was in District Court accused of sexually abusing a minor under his care a dozen times over a year-long period. After Melnar pleaded not guilty, his attorney Sarah Miles argued for a bond modification from $50,000 cash-only to $50,000 cash or surety, but presiding district judge William Simpson declined to make the change.
The crimes Melnar’s been charged with – sexual abuse of a minor in the second degree – indicate that he was the parent or step parent of the alleged victim. Each felony is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000.
Before beginning the arraignment process, Simpson made sure everyone in the court room knew the specifics of Wyoming confidentiality laws meant to protect the identity of minor victims. Any person who discloses information that could be used to identify the name, age or address of the alleged victim in Melnar’s case could be held in contempt of court, Park County Prosecutor Bryan Skoric warned, at Simpson’s behest. Files, including the charging documents used to effect the arrest of Melnar are sealed by law, limiting the amount of information available to the public.
Then began a marathon recitation of Melnar’s charges, starting with the first, which allegedly took place on or between June 1, 2016, and June 30, 2016, and ending with the 12th charge, which allegedly took place on or between May 1, 2017 and May 31, 2017. In other words, Melnar is charged with one felony count of sexual abuse for each month in that year-long period.
After each charge, Simpson asked Melnar if he understood the charges and potential penalties, and each time, Melnar replied, “Yes sir, your honor.”
In addition to any fines or jail time, Simpson told the defendant, being found guilty would mean registering as a sex offender. Depending on how many counts he’s found guilty of that registration could “possibly [be for] the remainder of your life,” Simpson said.
Melnar has been in the Park County Detention Center since being arrested a month ago, and Miles asked that the court consider allowing Melnar to post a commercial surety bond. Under such a bond, Melnar would essentially have to pay a bonding agency $5,000 to get out instead of gathering the full $50,000 himself.
Miles said her client had a minimal criminal history, and had deep ties to the community, lowering flight risk.
“I have been in contact with various other members of [Melnar’s] family, all of whom are supporting Mr. Melnar and all of whom would support him were he to be released from the Park County Detention Center,” Miles said. Several of those family members were in attendance at Melnar’s hearing.
“Mr. Melnar obviously would not be returning to the home where the alleged victim resides,” Miles said.
“These are very serious offenses, obviously. Offenses against a minor,” Skoric said. It is the “repetitive alleged conduct and the time frames involved,” the prosecutor said “that’s why the bond is where it is at this point – $50,000 cash.”
Skoric also disputed Miles’ characterization of Melnar’s criminal record, pointing out DUI’s in 2000, 2007, “possibly one in 2009,” 2010 and 2016.
“You do have a presumption of innocence. However, for purposes of bond, the ultimate objective is to ensure the safety of the community and in this case the safety of the alleged victim,” Simpson said, denying the request.
He left the door open for such a request in the future, but said even if a bond modification was made later, Melnar would be forbidden from having contact “supervised or unsupervised” with anyone under 18 years old.
At any future bond hearings, Simpson continued, Miles would have to bring along a bonding agent to testify as to security protocol for Melnar.
“I need some additional evidence and I need some additional verification as to what would be done for the safety of all involved,” Simpson concluded.
An Elks newsletter from May of 2013 listed Melnar as an applicant for the ballot to join the organization and listed his occupation as welder.