Surrounded by friends and family, two women sat shoulder-to-shoulder in a packed courtroom as a judge announced Mathew Seals’ prison sentence.
Teton County District Court Judge Timothy Day had the task of deciding two sentences Wednesday.
The two women’s cases were tried separately, although the charges against Seals in each were similar — various counts of aggravated assault, battery, strangulation and domestic battery.
“No other woman should have to endure the chronic psychological and physical harm Mathew Seals placed upon me and his other victims,” one of the victims told the judge. “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.”
In July, a jury convicted Seals on eight of the nine counts he was facing. The 34-year-old then pleaded guilty to another count of aggravated assault in the second case.
The state dismissed several other battery charges and a bribery charge in the plea agreement.
“I fought for my life and will continue to fight for every woman’s life he comes in contact with,” the other victim told the court. “Enough is enough. Mathew Seals deserves more than he is facing.”
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.
“She remembers being strangled, fighting for the breath of life, wondering if she would live through the night,” Teton County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Clark Allan said, and the “terror of impending death.”
Allan said Seals has yet to take responsibility for his violence, which is why he recommended the maximum sentence.
In his first statement to the court, Seals said he’s only violent when he’s drunk.
“I have one problem to overcome in my life,” Seals said. “Alcohol.”
Seals apologized to his victims then told the court that the presentence investigation that helps the court characterize him was unfair and one-sided.
“No one in my family was interviewed,” he said.
Seals’ new wife and ex-wife have aggressively supported him.
“I really think this case is an alcohol problem, not a rage problem,” his wife told Judge Day.
His wife blamed the media for how Seals has been portrayed.
“He’s been in the Jackson Hole News&Guide 11 times,” she said.
She asked the judge to think about his family before sending him to prison.
“Without seeing the light of day for a decade or more, it not only hurts Matt, but it hurts me and [our baby] and [his son] and his parents,” she said.
Seals told the court that he’s “an excellent father” and needs to be free so he can get back to being a dad.
He said he has yet to hold his new daughter, who was born while he has been in the Teton County Jail.
“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.
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.”
Day acknowledged a trend in violent behavior and the “gruesome injuries” Seals caused.
“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 the plea agreement, the sentences will run concurrently.
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.