THUNDER BAY - A disbarred Thunder Bay lawyer will have to wait until November to learn the type of sentence he will receive in connection to various charges he pleaded guilty to on Wednesday.
Daniel James William Matson, 33, appeared in court on Oct. 28 in a virtual Thunder Bay courtroom and pleaded guilty to 12 charges including counts of fraud, forgery and obstruction of justice for offences dating from 2013 to 2017 where he misled numerous clients in the status of their litigation matters and fabricated court documents, court heard on Wednesday.
Crown counsel is seeking a sentence for Matson of six months in custody arguing the disbarred lawyer’s actions had a substantial impact on not only the victims but also on the public and the Thunder Bay legal community.
After Matson’s pleas were entered, a 10-page agreed statement of facts was read into the record where assistant crown attorney Peter Keen outlined the circumstances of the charges against Matson involving each victim. Keen told the court Matson worked as a civil litigation lawyer in Thunder Bay and was initially called to the bar in 2013. He worked briefly for a law firm before entering into a partnership with another local lawyer.
Allegations began arising against Matson in 2017 when his licence to practice law was initially suspended for professional misconduct. The law society alerted the Thunder Bay Police Service and advised they had received evidence that Matson had falsified court orders.
Court heard on Wednesday numerous cases of where Matson would be retained by individuals seeking assistance in legal proceedings and Matson would often delay meetings with clients, not return phone calls, present falsified or forged documents, and often times blame delays on opposing counsel.
In one particular case, court heard one victim that had retained Matson for a wrongful dismissal claim stated dealing with Matson was “very frustrating" to the point the victim said he felt like he was losing his mind.
Court also heard the fake documents produced by Matson would have required substantial time and when police were investigating these claims they had to go to court services staff to verify if the documents were genuine or not.
At the sentencing hearing on Wednesday, Matson’s lawyer described him as someone who was drowning in his workload and was overwhelmed with the number of cases he was dealing with to the point he developed a major depressive disorder.
“Mr. Matson was someone who couldn’t see a way out from the expectations of his clients,” he said. “Things became unmanageable in late 2016 to 2017.”
“He reached a point where he would tell his clients anything to make it stop,” counsel for Matson said.
According to defence counsel, Matson's mental health during this time was so severe he attempted suicide on two separate occasions.
“What he did was wrong, he misled to people, he lied to them,” he said, adding this wasn’t a case of self-enrichment.
Matson didn’t benefit financially from his actions and was in fact paying money out of his own pocket at times to hide the fact legal proceedings for his clients were not moving forward, defence counsel stated. Court heard Matson spent $37,000 of his own money to provide clients with funds.
“The reason why people falsify things is to hide the fact they have stolen or taken money, that’s not the case here,” he said. “In fact, this has been a financial disaster for Mr. Matson.”
Defence counsel is seeking a conditional sentence order for Matson of 12 to 18 months stating a sentence served in the community would best serve his rehabilitation and because he is no longer a practicing lawyer he does not pose a risk to the community. He also adds Matson is extremely remorseful for his actions.
Matson spoke briefly to the court after lawyers made their submissions on his sentence to apologize for his actions and to the victims.
“I don’t think I have ever been so sorry for something in my life,” he said. “How it got so bad is hard to fathom."
Matson stated things took a turn for him in 2015 and by 2016 he was doing whatever he could to "simply survive."
"It is difficult for me to look back and understand how this even happened," he said.
Matson is expected to return to court in November to schedule a date for sentencing.
Karen Edwards, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source