ITHACA, N.Y. — The trial for Matthew Pinney, who was indicted in late 2017 on charges of rape and sexual assault, begins Thursday with jury selection in Tompkins County Court. Pinney will stand trial for rape along with Tompkins County Sheriff’s Deputy Scott Walters, who will face a separate trial later this year, for an incident that allegedly occurred at Walters’ residence in 2013.
Pinney and Walters’ cases are finally moving forward after an appeal was denied earlier this year. Though the case involves Tompkins County defendants, it will move forward with a special prosecutor from neighboring Schuyler County, District Attorney Joseph Fazzary. A special prosecutor was assigned due to Walters’ status as a Tompkins County deputy.
Pinney and Walters were charged in December 2017, but the charges stem from an investigation into an incident on Feb. 2, 2013. According to the accusations in court records, the two men allegedly raped and sexually assaulted a woman who could not consent “by reason of being physically helpless” while at Walters’ home in Lansing. According to court documents, the woman had a sexual assault evidence collection kit done after the incident because she believed she’d been drugged.
The men have denied the claims against them.
A trial has been delayed while the appellate court decided who should prosecute the case: Tompkins County District Attorney Matthew Van Houten or Joseph Fazzary, district attorney for Schuyler County. The case was initially assigned to a special prosecutor due to a potential conflict of interest of the Tompkins County District Attorney’s Office prosecuting a sheriff’s deputy who regularly worked with the office, court records state.
Attorney Edward Kopko, who is representing Pinney, argued in an appeal that a special prosecutor should not have been assigned, but the court did not agree. In January, an appeals court ruled that Fazzary’s appointment was appropriate.
Walters has been on paid administrative leave since the initial charges in December 2017, according to Sheriff Derek Osborne. According to SeeThroughNY, which lists the salaries of public officials, Walters made $71,727 in 2018.
Pinney and Walters are technically charged under different indictments and will therefore have separate trials, but each indictment alleges that they acted with the assistance of the other defendant, according to Fazzary. He said Walters is expected to face trial in September.
Jury selection in Pinney’s trial begins at 8:30 a.m. Thursday at the Tompkins County Courthouse.