February 2, 2021
Rhonda Parker
Lost Coast Outpost

Bail was set at $1.5 million today for a former teaching assistant charged with sexually abusing a Fortuna middle school student in 2017 and 2018.

Judge Christopher Wilson advised Matthew Oliver Gibson, 29, that he has been charged with two counts of aggravated sexual assault on a child under 14, continuous sexual abuse of a child under 14 and having substantial sexual conduct with a child. Gibson, who was arrested Jan. 29 at his McKinleyville residence, appeared via videocamera from Humboldt County Correctional Facility.

Wilson appointed the Public Defender’s Office to represent him, and Deputy Public Defender Luke Brownfield entered pleas of not guilty on his behalf. Because of the charges, Brownfield waived a bail hearing.

Asked if his plea was not guilty, Gibson responded “Sure. Yeah.”

According to Fortuna police, Gibson assaulted the girl while he was working in an afterschool program at Toddy Thomas Middle School in Fortuna. He has not worked at the school since December 2018. The alleged crimes were not reported until last month. Deputy District Attorney Carolyn Schaffer, appearing today via Zoom, said she understood Gibson has hired private attorney Russ Clanton to defend him. But Gibson did not mention having an attorney, so for now the Public Defender’s Office has his case.

Wilson also informed Gibson that if he is convicted of the substantial sexual conduct charge, any sentences he receives would be served consecutively.

Alone, the charge of aggravated sexual assault of a child can mean a prison term of 15 years to life.

Gibson’s preliminary hearing is scheduled for Feb. 16. Because of the nature of the charges, the defense did not request a bail hearing.

Also arraigned on serious felony charges today was Daniyel Ray Church, arrested Jan. 29 after a four-hour standoff with law enforcement on Buhne Drive in King Salmon.

Church, 46, allegedly barricaded himself in his home, with his juvenile son held hostage. After hours of futile negotiations between Church, a sheriff’s SWAT team and the Crisis Negotiation Team, officers forced entry and found the boy unharmed.

Judge Christopher Wilson advised Church he is charged with kidnapping with the special allegation that he personally used a firearm. He also was booked on a warrant alleging corporal injury to a spouse or cohabitant, and with stalking.

Church appeared in court via videoconference from the jail. At one point he commented “I don’t have no firearms or nothin.”

Wilson appointed the county Conflict Counsel’s Office to represent Church, and Deputy Conflict Counsel Owen Tipps entered not guilty pleas on his behalf. A bail hearing was set for Thursday, and the preliminary hearing for Feb. 16.

Wilson said Church would be served with an order to stay 100 feet from the alleged victim and not to attempt any kind of contact. The judge said it’s common that when people receive a stay-away order, the first instinct is to call the victim and ask what’s going on.

“Don’t do that,” the judge warned.

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