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Man to stand trial in bomb hoax called from Calif. jail

By Terry Vau Dell
Chico Enterprise-Record

OROVILLE — A judge Tuesday ordered a developmentally disabled Chico man to stand trial for allegedly telephoning in a phony bomb threat from the Butte County Jail after being arrested in connection with a spate of other recent bomb hoaxes.

The father of Matthew Ray Beard, 28, said outside of court his son is “not a violent person and would never harm anyone.”

After reviewing police reports in the case submitted by the opposing attorneys, Superior Court Judge Thomas Kelly ruled Tuesday there was sufficient evidence to bind over Beard for trial on allegations he was tape recorded telephoning in a phony bomb threat to the Oroville Office of Children’s Services last June 5 from the county jail.

Beard had initially been arrested in February in connection with anonymous bomb threats phoned into three Chico area businesses.

In the police report reviewed by the judge, Beard was quoted as saying fellow inmates had put him up to making the most recent call.

Beard’s attorney, Jesus Rodriguez, contends his client’s mental disability leaves him vulnerable to being influenced by others.

From conversations with family members, Rodriguez said Beard experienced “hardships growing up which have contributed to his conduct,” including being victimized as a child, suffering the death of his mother, and at one point being temporarily removed from his home and placed into foster care.

According to his lawyer, Beard had been receiving services through the Far Northern Regional Center in Redding, which assists people with developmental disabilities.

However, a court-appointed doctor who examined Beard found him mentally competent to stand trial in connection with the bomb hoaxes.

The defense attorney contends the psychiatric finding is at odds with Beard’s seemingly irrational behavior.

“The fact that he’s in custody for calling in false bomb threats and than he allegedly does the exact same thing from a jail phone which discloses at the outset that these calls are being recorded, shows he doesn’t really understand the severity of what’s going on,” said Beard’s lawyer outside of court.

Given his client’s disability, Rodriguez said Tuesday he will ask the district attorney to dismiss a prior arson strike on Beard’s record as part of a proposed plea bargain, which would allow the judge to grant probation in the case instead of automatically sending the Chico man to prison.

The defendant’s father said he previously wrote a letter to the judge, requesting that his son be released into his custody, under the condition that he have no access to a telephone.

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