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4th Circuit affirms sentence of man who threatened election investigator

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The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals recently affirmed a Lincoln County man did not act in self defense when he pulled a gun on an FBI agent and a Secretary of State investigator.

James A. Matheny, 61, of Midkiff appeared in federal court Sept. 24, four months after a federal jury found him guilty of assaulting a federal officer and using a deadly weapon during and in relation to a crime of violence.

Federal prosecutors said Matheny brandished a weapon and threatened to kill the FBI agent and the Secretary of State investigator who were interviewing him in connection to the 2010 Lincoln County primary vote fraud investigation.

In his appeal to the 4th Circuit, Matheny argues he was not aware that the people interviewing him were law enforcement and acted in self-defense to men who he thought were trespassing on his property.

In the 4th Circuit's May 2 per curiam decision, judges disagreed, saying the district court did not err in supporting the jury's finding nor erred in denying his motion for judgment of acquittal.

"In the present case, it is conceded that Matheny did not know the victims included a federal officer," the opinion stated. "Nonetheless, there was more than sufficient evidence to establish that Matheny used force against the victims that was disproportionate to any reasonably apprehended potential threat. There was no evidence that either victim took any action that would have given Matheny any reasonable belief that he was in physical danger."

The opinion further stated that evidence supported that Matheny pulled a gun "in response to a 10-15 second conversation … aimed it at the waists of both victims, threatened to kill them and trained the gun on them until they left."