By Vanesa Brashier, firstname.lastname@example.org
A Dayton man was convicted in absentia Tuesday after he failed to turn up for the last day of his jury trial in the 75th State District Court in Liberty County. After the jury found him guilty of Felony Evasion just before noon Tuesday, Matthew Thomas Condos, 31, was sentenced to 25 years in the state penitentiary by the Honorable Judge Mark Morefield.
Condos attended a portion of his trial on Monday, but when the trial resumed Tuesday morning, he was nowhere to be found. By Tuesday evening, he was in custody in Bryant, Ark.
Sources close to the case say his arrest was the result of a joint effort from the Liberty County Pct. 2 Constable’s Office, the Liberty County Courthouse security (who recorded the license plate of the vehicle he was driving on Monday when he arrived for trial), Liberty County District Attorney’s Office, Texas Ranger Brandon Bess and the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office.
Condos’ conviction stemmed from a Jan. 10, 2018, arrest in the Woodland Hills Subdivision by Pct. 2 Deputy Constable John Tucker, who at the time was working as a sheriff’s deputy. Tucker testified in trial that he was patrolling the community that day to check on some homes that were known for drug activity. Tucker said he saw Condos pull out of a driveway of one of the homes. He recognized Condos from previous encounters and knew he did not have a driver’s license, so he attempted a traffic stop.
Condos fled from Tucker, running through two ditches and into the yards of other residents as he tried to evade police prior to his capture.
His previous convictions for Unlawful Possession of a Firearm by a Felon, Theft, Burglary, Aggravated Assault With a Deadly Weapon and drug possession meant that Condos was considered a habitual offender.
During his sentencing hearing, Texas Ranger Brandon Bess testified about Condos’ affiliation with a white supremacist Texas prison gang called the Solid Wood Soldiers. Bess said his opinion of Condos’ involvement with the gang was based on his tattoos – a wolf on his throat and paw print on the side of his neck, his known associates, his social media posts and personal knowledge of Condos.
“SWS also stands for Solid White State,” Bess added. “They call themselves ‘The Wolf Pack.’”
With Condos voluntarily absent from the remainder of his trial, both the state and defense waived closing arguments. Condos’ attorney Michelle Merendino asked Judge Morefield to take judicial notice of the statements made by Tucker and another officer when determining his sentence.
Liberty County Assistant District Attorney Tami Pierce, who tried the case alongside ADA Koby Hoffpauir, said after Morefield’s sentence of 25 years that Condos’ gang affiliations and lengthy criminal history weighed against him during the trial.
“Without his prior history and his gang affiliations, he probably would have gotten a lot less time,” she said.