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Rape suspect in court

By Ed Brock

Rape suspect Michael Darren Matthews perched on the bench, fingers pressed together in front of his face, waiting for his turn before the judge.

The 39-year-old Matthews, a free-lance pilot from Florida, made his first appearance in Clayton County Magistrate Court on Wednesday. He faces charges of rape and sexual battery in connection with an incident in which Atlanta police say he forced himself on a 16-year-old girl in a stairwell at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Tuesday.

Matthews was a passenger on the same flight out of Florida as the girl, Atlanta police spokeswoman Sylvia Abernathy said, and both had layovers at Hartsfield-Jackson around 2 p.m. Tuesday. Abernathy said Matthews made contact with the girl, who was flying alone, on the airplane and then made additional contact with her when they got off the plane.

Somehow the two ended up in the stairwell on Concourse C where the rape allegedly occurred. Abernathy said she wasn't clear if the stairwell was in a restricted area.

"We do know that the suspect in this case had credentials on him that would have allowed him access to restricted areas," Abernathy said.

After the incident the victim may have contacted a third party, possibly an airport employee, who contacted the mini-precinct at the airport. The victim was taken to Hughes-Spalding Hospital for treatment.

Abernathy would not release the girl's destination.

Matthews was bound for Cleveland, Ohio after the layover. In court Matthews reluctantly said he worked for a company called Flight Options in Cleveland. Dennis Baker, a spokesman for Flight Options, said he could not confirm if Matthews worked for the company.

Chief Magistrate Judge Daphne Walker asked Matthews about his employer after he requested a court-appointed attorney. Walker asked Matthews if he didn't make more than $7,000 a month, to which Matthews answered that he made about $2,500 a month and had a house payment, a car note and two monthly credit card bills of about $200 each.

"You're a pilot and you make $2,500 a month," Walker asked.

Walker then granted Matthews' request for an attorney. She scheduled a preliminary hearing in his case for Aug. 9 and a bond hearing for Aug. 12.