California church leader, estate lawyer sentenced for sex crimes against children

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A former California attorney and church leader was sentenced to 40 years in prison after pleading guilty to molesting young girls. 

“I took advantage of the trust you had in me and manipulated and abused it in the worse way, I am so sorry for what I have done to you and your families,” Steven Matlak, 44, said to the families of his victims. “You were friendly and kind to me and I repaid it by stabbing you in the back.”

Matlak had been arrested twice in 2017. Monday marked the first time he apologized to the families of his victims, saying he manipulated them in order to gain access to their daughters. All of the victims were under the age of 10, with the youngest being five years old. 

“I lied to you, manipulated situations, and took advantage of free moments to commit my crimes,” said the convicted child molester. “My actions were extremely wicked and awful. I’m so sorry I did all of this.”

He agreed to a plea deal with the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office, and accepted a 40-year prison term after pleading guilty to charges such as lewd or lascivious act with a minor and continuous sexual abuse of a child. 

Matlak previously specialized in business law, trusts and estates in Fresno, and also led a Bible study in his home for young members of the First Presbyterian Church. 

He also pointed to sex addiction for his crimes, but the families did not accept the explanation, saying he is a pedophile and his victims are scarred by him.

“I bought new security doors, and cameras to make sure my daughters feel that much more safer in our home,” one father said, according to the Fresno Bee. “I am not trusting anybody anymore with the responsibility to take care of or watch my children.”

One mother said 40 years behind bars isn’t enough for Matlak. 

“Forty years will not repair the damage to innocent little girls who will potentially have to navigate every romantic relationship through the broken lens of being preyed upon by a gross old man,” she said.

Matlak will be nearly 80 by the time he is eligible for parole.

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