Former Bloomington casting director sentenced in abuse case

  • Article by: JIM ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 28, 2013 - 8:22 PM

Parents of two young victims say he used his position to win trust of aspiring actors, and that he’s likely to reoffend.

The former owner and casting director of a Bloomington film company, described by the mother of two boys whom he sexually abused as “a serial molester mastermind,” was sentenced Friday to nine years in prison.

Matthew D. Feeney, 44, of Cottage Grove, was sentenced after having earlier pleaded guilty to one count each of second-degree sexual assault and fourth-degree sexual assault involving the brothers, both aspiring actors, in incidents that lasted from June 2009 to the end of 2011, according to the complaint.

In an emotional hearing crowded by both supporters of the victims and of Feeney, Washington County District Judge Gary Schurrer rejected arguments from Feeney’s defense team for a lighter sentence that emphasized treatment with a year in the county jail.

“There simply can be no other victims in the future,” Schurrer said.

In a victim impact statement, the boys’ mother described how Feeney had won the trust of their entire family, providing them with casting opportunities, acting classes and planning outings — and then betrayed that trust in a horrific way.

“To this day, I am still shocked at what Matthew Feeney did and what he is about,” she said. The effects on her children and family — the guilt, fear and mistrust — have caused emotional scars, she said. “My boys will have a lifetime of pain that he imposed.”

She called Feeney a master of emotional manipulation and in pleading for the longest sentence possible, she called him a “deeply sickened, disconnected man” who will molest again if given the chance. “He won’t stop. We all know that. He knows that.”

Feeney, former chief executive officer of Walden Entertainment, was convicted of fourth-degree sexual assault while he was a counselor at a church camp in 1992 in Aitkin County. In February 2012, he was charged in Massachusetts stemming from an alleged sexual assault on a 14-year-old boy, and prosecutors said he is under investigation for another sexual assault in Wisconsin.

Defense attorney Paul Engh said it’s understandable for victims to want the severest punishment possible, but psychological experts for the defense noted that he has responded to treatment, and that progress should be allowed to continue. By law, that progress allows leeway in sentencing, he said.

But Imran Ali, Washington County assistant attorney, argued that the assessment of Feeney’s progress is “guarded,” and the circumstances of the case and Feeney’s narcissistic personality disorder make it likely he would abuse again. And as trained actor, he added, he knows what to say to therapists.

Most significantly, he has shown no remorse for his actions, Ali said. “It’s remorse that he was caught, not remorse for what he did.”

In his statement to the judge, Feeney said, “I am sorry for violating the trust of the victims and their families. … There is absolutely no excuse for what I did. … The kids need to know it wasn’t their fault and I am sorry.”

Schurrer told Feeney that, having undergone treatment before for sexual abuse, “the insights into the issues you had should have given you knowledge that you were slipping into your old ways. But you continued on,” he said.

Along with the prison term, Feeney was ordered to pay more than $13,000 in restitution to the victims and will be subject to a conditional release for the rest of his life — meaning another future violation would mean an immediate jail term.

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