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May 6, 2021
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Sex offender denied request for pardon

February 19, 2021

On Friday, February 5, following a contested hearing, the Honorable Peter Ottenweller denied a motion for a certificate of rehabilitation and pardon brought by convicted sex offender Matthew David Phillips, 46 years old of Santa Rosa, related to his 2008 felony sex convictions. Phillips was placed on probation in 2008 rather than being sent to state prison as requested by the District Attorney’s Office, after pleading guilty to charges of distributing child pornography, inducing a minor to perform sexual acts, eavesdropping and child abuse. 

District Attorney Jill Ravitch stated, “The law clearly does not allow for an individual convicted of sexual offenses of this nature to be granted this type of relief. One of the byproducts of a finding of rehabilitation and pardon would be that this person would be relieved of his obligation to register as a sex offender. That was clearly not what was bargained for at the time of his plea, and not what was contemplated by the court at the time of his original sentence. Therefore, we believe this was the just and legal outcome of this motion.” 

The 2008 felony convictions resulted after a Sonoma County Sheriff’s investigation revealed the defendant had been sexually abusing and filming multiple male victims between the ages of 13 and 17 years old who were participating as “Fire Explorers” in the Bennett Valley Fire Department’s Fire Explorer program. At the time, the defendant was a volunteer youth advisor in the program, a fire fighter and a sworn police officer with the City of Rohnert Park. The abuse of the victims had gone undetected for years as the defendant actively discouraged the victims from coming forward and reporting the crimes. 

Upon his arrest, the defendant was found in possession of child pornography, including videos that he had taken of the minor victims. 

The defendant’s request for rehabilitation and pardon was opposed by Deputy District Attorney Robert L Blade, assisted by Chief District Attorney Investigator Cecile Focha.