A jury heard stories of alcohol abuse, anger and violence Tuesday as the first of two criminal trials against Mathew Cody Seals began in Teton County District Court.
The jury — 11 men and two women — saw photos projected on a big screen of the victim with a black eye, a bloody nose and purple bruises across her neck.
They saw X-rays of her broken arm and text messages sent to her by the defendant.
“Yes, when I get wasted I have hurt you,” reads a text message that the prosecution claims Seals sent his ex-girlfriend in 2016, suggesting they get back together.
The victim’s testimony took nearly four hours.
“It was the most physical pain I have ever felt,” she said, of the time in 2013 when, she claims, Seals broke her arm.
The state, represented by Teton County Deputy Prosecutor Clark Allan, asked the victim to describe the violent encounters in detail, one by one.
Toward the end of the day she walked up to the jury box and showed jurors two scars she said Seals caused when he threw full cups of water at her.
She showed them a scar on her upper lip and one on her chin.
“Her face becomes a road map for this case,” Allan told the jury during his opening remarks.
Of all the evidence the most graphic photos shared Tuesday with the jury showed her neck after the night she said Seals choked her on a hotel room floor.
“He had me pinned on the floor, and he grabbed my throat and started strangling me,” she testified. “I couldn’t scream or say anything. I was gasping for air.”
The prosecution showed pictures of her bruised neck that she said she took the next morning. The photos showed dark purple bruising, in horizontal streaks across each side of her neck.
Seals, 34, is on trial for nine separate counts of battery, aggravated assault, domestic battery, property destruction and strangulation.
On June 17 he will be on trial for allegations of abuse of a second woman, who was allegedly beaten so badly in 2017 that she had to have surgery.
In this first trial the judge is allowing the jury to hear only certain parts of the second victim’s account. She is expected to testify today.
Seals’ defense attorney, public defender Elisabeth Trefonas, told the jury to keep in mind that the case is mostly the victim’s word against her client’s word.
“This is a he-said she-said case,” she told the jury. “The lifestyle of this couple plays an essential role. They drank an astonishing amount of alcohol, and they sought thrill-seeking activities.”
During cross-examination Trefonas prodded the victim about the time she had a black eye.
“Are you sure that had nothing to do with the fight that you were all in at The Bird?” she asked.
“I was not involved in a fight at The Bird,” the victim said.
Trefonas asked if she could have injured herself in a dirt biking or snowmobiling accident.
“Is it possible that the injuries in the pictures were because you were drinking and got into an accident?” she asked.
“No,” the victim said.
The victim said that while she was dating Seals, from 2011 to about 2016, he had a tendency to become violent for no apparent reason when he had been drinking.
“He got jealous very easily about a lot of things,” she said.
The two broke up not long after the strangulation incident, and the victim moved and started dating the man who is now her husband.
“If you guys hook up I’ll kill you both,” Seals allegedly texted the victim. “Ok, f--- with my head and see what happens.”
The victim appeared confident on the stand and did not deny that she also partied a lot when she was dating Seals.
Finally, Allan asked her why she didn’t leave sooner.
“I was scared if I left him that he would hurt me again,” she said. “He threatened that if I left him he would ruin and destroy me. He also owed me a lot of money. I knew if I left him he would never pay me that money.”
Besides breaking her arm, giving her a black eye, a bloody nose and scars on her face, the victim said, Seals once took out a pocket knife and slashed their bedding and several items of her clothing, then came at her with the knife.
“I was standing in the room in front of the closet trying to get Matt to stop cutting up my clothes, and with the knife in his hand he came at me and cut the hoodie I was wearing,” she testified.
She showed jurors the hoodie, which had a hole in its sleeve. She told them that if she hadn’t moved her arm back he would have slashed her arm.
Seals was arrested in July 2018 after one of the victims showed up at the Teton County Courthouse to get a protection order.
Her account was so violent that police became involved.
Seals bonded out of Teton County Jail after his original arrest and was on the lam for several weeks before he was caught and arrested in Massachusetts and extradited to Wyoming.
He has been incarcerated since October 2018. But the court is allowing Seals to attend the trial in plain clothes rather than a jail jumpsuit.
On Tuesday he wore black-rimmed glasses, a blue button-up shirt and a plaid tie.
He has yet to speak, and it’s unclear if he will testify at the end of this week.
Last week Seals was charged with a new felony after police said he and his mother, Lori Seals, tried to bribe one of his victims not to testify against him.
In an affidavit filed May 28 in Teton County Circuit Court, police said Lori Seals called attorney Dick Mulligan on May 23 and offered to pay on behalf of her son.
Police were there when Mulligan returned her call.
Lori Seals offered to pay the victim $416 per month for 10 years after prosecutors dropped the case and her son was released.
“She’d have to go to the prosecutor and say she doesn’t want to pursue it and request they dismiss it,” Lori Seals reportedly told Mulligan over the phone. “And if they do dismiss it then he would agree to the offer, the money offer.”
Police served a search warrant the next day at Lori Seals’ house and seized her cellphone, which revealed text messages confirming the bribe.
That issue has not been raised at trial.
Prosecutors plan to call the second woman to testify Wednesday. The trial is scheduled to take all week.