Texas Church Almost Pays the Price for Legal System’s Carelessness

In all honesty, I wasn’t sure if I should use the word “carelessness” or “callousness” above in the title of this post considering this news item that I came across. A child rapist in Texas, 25-year-old Matthew Scott Graves, will finally face prison time after a string of criminal actions he perpetrated starting in 2016 when he was 22 years old. In July 2016, Graves raped a 15-year-old girl after forcing his way into her bedroom in Wichita Falls, TX. After several months of a police investigation, he was arrested on sexual assault charges over the incident in 2017.

It wasn’t until 2019 that the case was set for trial. That’s when the inexplicable happened and started a domino effect that came close to harming a church. When Graves was in court on March 20, 2019, he submitted a guilty plea to the sexual assault charge. But instead of accepting his plea and giving him a prison sentence, the judge in the case decided not to accept the guilty plea and avoided convicting Graves. He was given 10 years probation along with stipulations that included things like paying a fine plus court costs and registering as a sex offender. A deferred-adjudication agreement that Graves promised to fulfill.

When he walked out of the courtroom, he skipped out on doing any of what he agreed to do in court. But here’s what Graves did do:

  • Failed to pay a $1,000 fine plus court costs and fees.
  • Failed to attend a court-ordered intake treatment for sexual abusers in May 2019.
  • Set a series of fires that threatened homes in the Spring of 2019.
  • Refused to register as a sex offender.
  • Had contact with kids after Sunday church services and at childrens’ Wednesday night services.
  • Attempted to be a volunteer for children’s Bible study at the church.

What could possibly make a judge think that raping a child did not warrant a conviction and a stiff prison sentence? That decision to defer a conviction and to give a sex offender a lengthy probation needlessly placed other children at risk. After four years of getting away with his criminal misdeeds, Graves has finally been convicted in Montague County, Texas, sentenced to five years for failing to register as a sex offender and a conviction for sexual assault with eight years in prison for violating his probation (a probation he never should have gotten). Additionally, he also now has a conviction for arson in Clay County with another sentence of five years.

This incident is an example of why churches should be watchful with a healthy dose of discernment and skepticism when necessary. Living in a fallen world means the systems that are supposed to be set up to protect us may at times fail us because of faulty human nature. If anything, this is proof sin exists and that there are too many people running around doing evil to buy into the failed notion that we humans are basically good. Genuinely relying on the Holy Spirit will always aid us when men fail us. That’s probably how this church was able to avoid any sexual attacks on their kids from a sex offender in their midst.

…the wicked shall fall by his own wickedness. Proverbs 11:5

…for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. Galatians 6:7

Source: Trish Coate, Sex offender headed to prison after trying to volunteer at kids’ Bible study, Wichita Falls Times Record News, July 24, 2020.

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