Matt Seals will soon head to state prison, and the women he was convicted of abusing over the course of several years are happy to see him go.
Despite Seals pleading for another chance at freedom, 9th Judicial District Judge Timothy Day sentenced him to 7 1/2 to 10 years in prison.
In July a jury convicted Seals of eight of the nine domestic violence-related counts he was facing. The 34-year-old then pleaded guilty to another count of felony aggravated assault in a second case that involved another victim.
The abuse started in 2011 and continued until 2017, records show.
Victim recounts terror
He was formally sentenced on Sept. 4 in front of a packed courtroom of both his victims and supporters.
“I am here today to not only stand up for myself but all the women, children, friends and family members that Mathew Seals has negatively impacted,” one of his victims said in court. “I kept myself in a lethal relationship, scared to leave.”
The News&Guide does not identify victims of domestic violence unless requested by the victim to be named.
The victim called Seals a coward for claiming he has changed.
“Matt’s ex-wife left him because of abuse,” she said. “He was so destructive that she was the first out of three women to obtain protection orders from him.”
With the trial behind her and convictions against Seals entered, the woman said she has moved on but worries about his new wife, whom he recently married in a small ceremony in the visitor area of Teton County Jail.
“His abuse toward women has significantly worsened throughout the years,” she said, “from broken noses to broken arms to broken knees. I am here to protect the next woman, his wife, the next child, his daughter, from the horrific life they may endure.”
Leniency pleas denied
His new wife has supported Seals and stood before Judge Day and begged him to see him through her eyes.
“I have missed Matt in ways a wife should never have to miss her husband,” she said. “I really think this case is an alcohol problem, not a rage problem.”
Seals addressed the court for the first time since his arraignment, giving a brief apology and blaming his actions on alcohol.
“I would like to start by apologizing to [victim] and [victim’s family] for what I have done in the past,” he told the court. “I have one problem to overcome in my life — alcohol.”
Grasping for leniency, Seals told Judge Day he has yet to hold his daughter, who was born while he has been in custody.
“One year in county is no easy time,” he said. “There has been extreme loss and suffering.”
Seals’ attorney, public defender Elisabeth Trefonas, said her client has changed for the better.
“The Mr. Seals who is sitting here in front of you today is not the one I met over a year ago,” she said.
Teton County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Clark Allan disagreed, saying Seals often was violent in front of his son and in front of a victim’s daughter.
As he addressed the issue, Allan started to cry.
“Matt Seals doesn’t know what a good father is. Being a good father is not a part-time job you do every once in a while,” Allan said. “It isn’t something you can put away and then bash the child’s mother around when the child is around, and then buy the kid a toy and dote on them. It doesn’t work that way.”
A picture of abuse
When the second victim addressed the court, she showed a photo of herself in the hospital.
“Mathew Seals actually took this picture,” she said. “I am in a hospital bed with severe bruising on my arms and wrists and my daughter is standing there next to me.”
The woman said that two months after Seals first hit her, her young daughter started to pull out her own hair.
“With several black eyes, fat lips, stitches, bruises, surgeries and permanent disfigurements bestowed upon me by him, and my daughter pulling her hair out from the stress of being around Mathew Seals, our trust in others has been a slow process to recovery,” she said. “With time we have and will persevere. I will not allow the persistent pain, limited function and daily struggles with my knee and the scars on my face and body due to his uncontrollable rage and demons define me.”
She also assured the court she won’t be his last victim.
“It’s not a matter of if, but it’s a matter of when he hits his next girlfriend too hard, and she doesn’t wake up in the morning,” she said.
Over the past year, the court has heard violent stories and seen photos of injuries the women endured while dating Seals.
Each has scars on her face, permanent reminders of abuse.
“Your honor, I respectfully ask you to have no mercy on Mathew Seals as he had no mercy on me,” she said.
Seals was no stranger to law enforcement before these cases.
In 2011 his ex-wife got a protection order against him. That same year he was arrested for domestic violence, for violation of a protection order and for allegedly writing a fraudulent check.
According to police records he was arrested for public intoxication in March 2012 and cited for a hit-and- run crash in January 2013.
In April 2013 he was cited for not reporting an accident and felony fraud.
None of those run-ins include the assault case he went to trial for.
Prosecutor Allan told the court that alcohol didn’t make Seals beat up his ex-girlfriends. He called him a “mean, cruel, violent and evil drunk.”
“We have a fair idea of what alcohol does and doesn’t do,” Allan said. “Ninety-nine percent of alcoholics don’t do what Matt Seals did. Alcohol didn’t cause that behavior.”
Judge Day had the task of deciding two sentences, because the domestic battery cases were tried separately.
But the women sat shoulder-to-shoulder in the courtroom, waiting for Day’s decision.
“The defendant has been on notice for years, and these are violent offenses,” Day said. “A substantial prison sentence is justified here.”
Day sentenced Seals to 6 to 10 years for the first case and 7 1/2 to 10 years in state prison on the second case.
As part of a plea agreement the sentences will run concurrently.
The plea deal also dismissed several other battery charges and a bribery charge against Seals and his mom, Lori Seals, that arose just before trial, when police said Lori Seals called attorney Dick Mulligan and offered to pay one of his victims $416 a month for 10 years to not testify against him.
Seals received one year of time served on the misdemeanors he was convicted of, so his prison sentence will start anew.
Day also ordered Seals to complete substance abuse and domestic violence prevention training while he’s in prison.
Seals will be transferred to a Wyoming state prison after an upcoming restitution hearing.