He stood in a Maryland courtroom, apologized to the police officer seated behind him, and suggested some context for what he’d done.
“I do think, fundamentally, this came from a position of having some anger issues,” Eugene Matusevitch, 35, said Tuesday.
The case against him, for which he’d come to Montgomery County court to plead guilty and be sentenced, had certainly proved incivility.
Last fall, after the officer cited him for an illegal turn in downtown Bethesda, Matusevitch sought out the officer’s private cellphone and his Social Security number, and badgered him with more than 25 harassing messages. “You there fatboy?” one asked. “On a donut break? Applying for welfare?” Matusevitch even reached out to the officer’s father on Facebook, calling his son a glorified mall cop. “You must be so proud,” he wrote.
In court Tuesday, Matusevitch struck a different tone.
“I am incredibly and profusely sorry,” he said. “Clearly what I did was completely out of line.”
Montgomery County District Judge Eric Nee sentenced Matusevitch to 18 months of probation, which was slightly longer than a pending plea deal between attorneys in the case. The punishment does not include jail time, which is consistent with many “harassing communications” misdemeanor cases.
Much of the hearing hinged on whether Matusevitch should have his conviction wiped from his record.
His attorney, Steven Kupferberg, argued that it should, given his client already has lost two jobs over publicity around the case, has performed 75 hours of community service on his own and continues anger-management therapy.
“He lost his judgment for a few days,” Kupferberg said. “This is something that can be controlled, can be counseled about.”
Assistant State’s Attorney Timothy D’Elia noted similar accusations against Matusevitch in 2016, when he allegedly blitzed a Liberty Mutual insurance agent in Florida with text messages over a $50 refund check. “It should be a conviction,” D’Elia said. “It should be something that stays with him.”
Matusevitch was born in London and spent much of his life in Bethesda, according to court records. He received a political science degree from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, going on to work in audio production editing and in sales at financial and software companies.
On Aug. 28, while driving a black BMW, Matusevitch made an illegal right turn at the intersection of Leland Street and Woodmont Avenue — directly in front of Montgomery County Police Officer Dominick Stanley. The officer signaled Matusevitch to pull over, and gave him a ticket for the turn.
Matusevitch challenged the citation in Montgomery District Court on Nov. 14, telling a judge he hadn’t noticed the sign, but ultimately agreed to plead guilty. He was fined $50, but there was no conviction and no points lodged against his driving record.
After the hearing, Matusevitch reached out to a friend at a financial services company and procured the officer’s cellphone number and other personal information. Then he launched the texts and Facebook messages. Matusevitch also contacted drug rehabilitation facilities, pretending to be the officer, generating a raft of calls and texts to Stanley about how they might help him.
Several days later, a Montgomery detective charged Matusevitch with three counts of telephone misuse and one count of harassing electronic communication. Almost immediately, his attorney, Kupferberg, said his client would address any anger issues that may have been at play.
Stanley, the officer, told the judge in court Tuesday, that he at first tried to ignore the text messages but then was hit by a “plethora” of phone calls from the rehabilitation clinics about his bogus drug problem. “I had to deal with the fallout and the embarrassment of that,” Stanley said.
The Facebook message to his father and the growing harassment, Stanley said, troubled his family. “My mom was obviously greatly affected by it. She already has to worry about me being on the street everyday. But then this kind of brought it home for her,” he said.
Matusevitch began counseling in December, according to a psychologist who testified Tuesday.
“The anger issues that triggered this are things that arise out of his past,” said Frederick Oeltjen, citing Matusevitch’s relationship with his late father that is being addressed in their sessions.
Oeltjen added that Matusevitch did not pose a threat to society: “There’s never been any indication that he would hurt or harm anyone.”
In January, Matusevitch sent a letter to Stanley stating, “It is important to me that you know how ashamed and embarrassed I am.”
He explained what he had been going through, principally that his mother had been very ill and in and out of hospitals for several years, while also saying that did not justify the texts.
“The things I said would have been extremely disrespectful to anyone, let alone a police officer who was just trying to do his job,” Matusevitch wrote.
As Matusevitch’s case headed toward trial, so did the trial for Zak Thompson, the friend at the financial services company, who had been charged with two counts of obtaining identifying information about a person that is used to “annoy, threaten, embarrass or harass” the subject, court records show.
On April 30, Thompson pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to community service, according to his attorney, John Kudel. “He will never do anything like this again,” Kudel said.
As for Matusevitch, the judge Tuesday said he would address the question of taking away his conviction in 12 months, and the decision would hinge on his behavior on probation.
“You do appear to be remorseful,” Nee, the judge, told him.