Taber sentenced to 15 years in prison, must pay restitution in assault and trespassing case
Matthew C. Taber, 47, of Gainesville, was sentenced on Monday to 15 years in prison and ordered to pay $10,000 in victim restitution by Associate Judge Elizabeth Bock in connection with the serious assault of Edward “Dean” Dossett in November 2013. Taber will be required to serve at least 85 percent of the sentence, nearly 13 years, before he is eligible for parole.
Taber’s sentencing came after he was found guilty of first-degree assault and first-degree trespassing by an Ozark County jury in January 2017.
“This case was particularly frustrating for the state and the victim due to continued litigation concerning the defendant’s competency to proceed,” Ozark County Prosecuting Attorney John Garrabrant told the Times after the hearing.
The case was first filed in associate court in August 2014, before then-Associate Judge Cynthia MacPherson. It was transferred to Ozark County Circuit Court before Circuit Judge Craig Carter in October 2014. A motion for a change of judge and change of venue was filed immediately, and the case was transferred to Wright County with Bock assigned to the case.
A jury trial was scheduled for July 2015. The jury pool was gathered that day, but a mistrial was granted “due to manifest necessity” before it was seated because Taber appeared impaired when he arrived at the courthouse. He was given an alcohol test there, and his blood alcohol content was .240. He was unable to produce a drug test. His bond was revoked, and he was held in custody.
During a motion hearing in August 2015, Taber reportedly told the court he wanted to fire his public defender and hire private counsel. Bock ordered a mental evaluation to be performed by the Missouri Department of Mental Health. A mental evaluation was performed Sept. 23, 2015, and “all parties agree[d] that based on mental evaluation… the defendant [was] not competent to proceed...” the court docket entry indicated. Bock signed an order committing Taber to the Department of Mental Health because of his incompetency to proceed in October 2015.
Then, in April 2016, the Missouri Department of Mental Health office in Fulton sent the court a letter with a psychiatric evaluation indicating Taber was again competent to proceed to trial for the charges. A motion to proceed was filed in May 2016. A jury trial was set for Nov. 7-8, 2016, in Wright County.
A joint stipulation made Sept. 22, 2016, between both the state and defense indicated a change of venue back to Ozark County with a new trial date was requested and granted. The case was refiled in Ozark County in September 2016, and a jury trial was scheduled for Jan. 9, 2017. The trial was held Jan. 9-10, 2017, with Garrabrant representing the state and public defenders John Zimmerman and Alexandra Assareh representing the defendant. The jury deliberated for an hour and 43 minutes before returning with a guilty verdict for the assault and trespassing charges. A sentencing report was ordered, and sentencing was set for March 20, 2017.
However, another notice of competency issue was filed in February 2017 by Taber’s attorney. A competency evaluation was filed March 16, 2017, by defense attorney Zimmerman. When Taber appeared March 20 for the sentencing hearing, the court ordered another competency evaluation to be performed in an inpatient setting by the Missouri Department of Mental Health to determine if Taber was competent at his trial in January 2017. The defense team also filed a motion for a new trial. It was taken under advisement.
The mental evaluation was filed Aug. 15, 2017, and Taber appeared for a hearing in October 2017. Evidence was presented by Dr. Kent Franks. The record indicated that Taber was deemed not competent to proceed at the time. The proceedings were suspended, and Taber was committed to the Missouri Department of Mental Health for “inpatient psychiatric treatment to restore his mental fitness to proceed to motion for new trial and sentencing.”
Taber was remanded to the custody of the Department of Mental Health on Oct. 23, 2017, and remained there undergoing psychiatric treatment. A competency exam was received from the DMH on Feb. 7, 2019, and Taber appeared for a hearing March 18. At the hearing, Bock found credible evidence that Taber was competent and ordered the case to proceed. She also found that he was competent at the previously held jury trial.
The sentencing hearing was held April 8, when the sentence was handed down.