A man who spent 19yrs in prison for sexually assaulting a California county clerk-recorder has accused the clerk of lying about the assault - the clerk has been recently charged with lying about death threats being sent against her.
Ex-convict Roger Steiner lives in a broken-down motor home that he bought for $500 and covered with a tarp to keep out rain, parked in a cow pasture. The landowner’s well went dry, so he has no running water. He lives on Social Security and dreams of striking it rich panning for gold.
“I (urinate) in a bottle. I roll feces in a newspaper and let it dry, then I burn it,” he said, reflecting on his living conditions since being released from federal prison in early 2014. “That’s how this has affected my life. Thank you, Karen Mathews.”
Roger Steiner wasted 19 of his 77 years behind bars, he says, convicted on the word of a woman now facing prison time for allegedly lying to a U.S. Treasury Department agent in a recent investigation. The same agent told him that he now believes Steiner is an innocent man, Steiner said Friday. The Modesto Bee was unable to talk with the agent to confirm that is what he told Steiner.
“I’ll tell you upfront: It wasn’t me,” Steiner, a former crop-duster pilot, said of the 1994 brutal ambush and sexual assault of Stanislaus County’s elected clerk-recorder. “I never laid a finger on Karen Mathews,” he said.
The agent Steiner referred to, John Hartman, has not been available for interviews since U.S. marshals used his affidavit to arrest Karen Mathews Davis, who remarried after moving from Modesto a few years ago. The document says she fabricated death-threat letters and sent them to herself while she was running for a congressional seat last year.
Steiner was among nine people convicted in 1997 of involvement with an extremist tax-protest conspiracy, although jurors found only him responsible for the ambush in Mathews Davis’ Modesto garage. She said a man beat and cut her, dry-fired a revolver held to her head and sodomized her with its muzzle, and she identified Steiner as the assailant. Last year, she published a book called “The Terrorist in My Garage.”
“It’s just not in my DNA to attack a woman. That just isn’t me,” Steiner said Friday, insisting he never left his Oregon home at the behest of the Modesto-based Juris Christian Assembly, as alleged.
“You can’t be in two places at one time and I was in Baker City, Oregon. I could not tell you how to get into or out of Modesto, Calif., if my life depended on it. And I certainly wouldn’t do it for a tax group. If you owe taxes, pay ’em.”
The Fresno attorney who defended Steiner, Daniel Harralson, on Thursday suggested that Mathews Davis not only created evidence last year, but also in the case that sent his client to prison long ago.
Mathews Davis, 67, came clean to Hartman about the recent ruse after failing a polygraph test about the death threats in late 2013 and early 2014, which she alternately had tried to pin on Steiner, her grandson, a neighbor’s nephew and a member of her church, Hartman’s affidavit says. Steiner said he hopes Hartman’s polygraph covered questions about her claims two decades ago, including similarly worded threats, a fake bomb found under her car and the alleged attack.
Steiner was trying to reach a probation agent, he said Friday, to see if the recent revelations might affect Steiner’s probation status. He takes some comfort, he said, that Hartman wants to track down Steiner’s son, who is serving a church mission with his family of six children in Africa, to tell the man that his father was innocent all along.
Meanwhile, Steiner waxes philosophical.
“Karen Mathews made it possible for me to have an investigation to get to the bottom of this,” he said. “Karen Mathews gave me the Treasury Department and FBI investigators, who opened the door to what I couldn’t accomplish. The Good Book says the Lord works in mysterious ways, and boy do I believe it.
“She pretty well destroyed my life,” he continued. “It’s been an interesting journey-slash-horror story. But character comes from adversity, and if you don’t have adversity, you don’t really grow.”
Seated on a plank atop a bucket by his broken-down motor home, Steiner wanders in conversation from gold mining and aeronautics to illegal immigration and alien life forms. He’s lost a lot of weight in recent months, he says, cutting a gaunt figure compared with photographs taken when he was arrested in 1995. Although his living conditions are not ideal, he insists he’s moving past bitterness.