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Fahey to serve at least 33 years in assault of newspaper carrier in Fairfax, Minn.

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news Willmar, 56201
West Central Tribune
(320) 235-6769 customer support
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

OLIVIA -- Matthew Thomas Fahey, 26, will serve a life sentence for the kidnapping and sexual assault of a 14-year-old newspaper carrier in May 2010 in Fairfax.

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He will not be eligible for parole until he serves a minimum of 404 months in prison -- more than 33 years -- under terms of the sentence issued Tuesday by District Judge Randall Slieter.

Fahey had no comments to make before hearing the sentence on convictions for kidnapping, criminal sexual predatory conduct, and criminal sexual conduct in the first degree - causing injury or by force or coercion. Asked afterward by the court if he understood the sentence, Fahey said he did not because it had been stated "too fast."

"We can breathe a lot easier," said the father of the girl that Fahey had forced into his car as she delivered newspapers. The girl and her parents were surrounded by other family members as they heard the sentence.

"I'm glad," the teenage girl said after the proceeding. She and her parents told reporters that she is getting her life back on track after the ordeal. They said they felt justice was served with the sentence and thanked the Fairfax community for the support they have received.

District Judge Slieter issued the sentence after rejecting a motion by the defense asking the court to delay the proceedings until a psychological examination could be completed. The examination would determine whether Fahey should be committed to the state's mental health hospital in St. Peter due to mental illness, according to defense attorney Richard Swanson of Chaska.

He was brought into the case recently to replace Fahey's public defenders. Swanson argued that his client suffers a range of mental health issues, including psychosis induced by methamphetamine use and depression. Fahey struggles with personality disorders and suffered a possible brain injury due to chemical use, the defense attorney told the court.

Judge Slieter said he did not doubt that Fahey suffered mental health issues. However, he agreed with the arguments of prosecutor Glen Jacobsen, Renville County assistant attorney. Fahey's ability to understand the proceedings and participate in his defense had been thoroughly examined by his original defense attorneys and the court. He was found competent, and that was the issue that had to be considered under criminal law.

Sentencing guidelines require a life sentence for sexual assault when a kidnapping is also part of the offense. The court had also previously found that the crime included "heinous" elements, a finding that allows a lengthier sentence.

The issue for the court Tuesday was to set the date at which Fahey would first be eligible for parole. The court cited aggravating factors -- including the age and physical size difference between the offender and victim -- in departing from the guidelines to delay his eligibility for parole to 404 months. He was granted credit for 14 months served.

Prior to the sentencing, Fahey's mother told the court that she had been obtaining mental health care for her son and "knew something wasn't right" in the days preceding the assault. Identified in court as Charleen Fahey, she said her son was experiencing a "psychotic episode" and she had been unsuccessful in obtaining care that might have prevented what happened at the time.

In arguments to the court, the defense indicated it would likely appeal.

Jacobsen said he felt the sentence was appropriate, and noted that even if Fahey is released after 404 months, he will remain under supervision of the state for his natural life.

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Tom Cherveny
Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.
(320) 214-4335
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