Judge orders Mount Laurel man charged after viral racist rant to stay in jail until trial
Calling Edward Cagney Mathews a “high risk of danger to the community if released,” a Burlington County judge sided with prosecutors to keep him behind bars.
The Mount Laurel man whose racist tirade against his Black neighbors was captured on viral video and sparked outcry this month will remain in jail until trial, a Burlington County judge ruled Wednesday.
Calling Edward Cagney Mathews a “high risk of danger to the community if released” and citing the 45-year-old white man’s documented history of harassment against his neighbors and “extensive” criminal record, Burlington County Superior Court Judge Terrence R. Cook sided with prosecutors to keep Mathews behind bars, despite a public safety assessment recommendation that he be released.
“There are no conditions, monetary or nonmonetary, that will assure A) that the defendant appears in court, and B) the safety of the community and the particular of victims in this case,” Cook said, after listening to assistant prosecutor Jamie Hutchinson detail Mathews’ behavior over more than a year toward his Black neighbors at the Essex Place condo community. Mathews’ conduct prior to the July 2 incident caught on video allegedly included slinging rocks and ball bearings through home and car windows of condo association board members, smearing feces on a board member’s car, and writing threatening notes and emails.
Mathews appeared at the virtual hearing at a lectern but did not speak. He faces 14 charges, including criminal mischief, bias intimidation, harassment, trespassing, stalking, and drug and weapons possession.
Court-appointed attorney Anthony Rizzo urged the judge to release Mathews — a union construction worker who he said has lived in the area for nearly 40 years — under conditions that he not contact victims or potential witnesses, nor return to the condo community or Mount Laurel.
In an incident that garnered national attention, Mathews was arrested outside his Mount Laurel home July 5 after he was filmed at a neighbor’s stoop days earlier using racist slurs, and taunting a Black man. Mathews looked into the camera, saying “come see me” and providing his address. Dozens did, protesting for hours outside his condo until he was arrested.
But, prosecutors said Wednesday, Mathews’ documented history of harassment of his neighbors dated back to April 2020, and new evidence shed light on further alleged incidents.
“He was shooting up cars this entire time, he was throwing rocks at cars, he was smearing feces on cars,” Hutchinson told the court. “And it’s not a leap to assume that this would only escalate his behavior if he was in fact released. And that ammunition could be aimed at a person next time, or again, there could have been people in those cars that he was shooting at. This defendant is a clear danger to other persons in the community.”
When police conducted a search warrant on Mathews’ home, Hutchinson said, they found a slingshot and 30 rounds of ball-bearing ammunition that matched the size, color, weight, and inscription of ball bearings shot through a former condo association board secretary’s car in August. Frustrated by the abuse, she moved out of the community last fall.
A note was left on another Black board member’s car in January reading “one down, only a few to go.” An FBI report released Monday confirmed it was written in Mathews’ handwriting, Hutchinson said.
And Hutchinson said a rock thrown through the window of another Black board member’s car matched the type of river rock found outside Mathews’ home.
Over the course of a year, residents filed police reports and citizens’ complaints against Mathews and the homeowners’ association fined him $500. Mount Laurel police had previously met with the condo’s HOA, and officers had attempted to obtain a warrant for Mathews after an episode of harassment was caught on a Ring doorbell camera, but it was denied, Hutchinson said.
In late November, the prosecutor said, the Department of Homeland Security granted the association a camera for a two-week period to monitor Mathews but did not catch any misbehavior.
“These people were doing everything that they possibly could think of to ask for help, and the police were then out there doing everything that they could think of to try and prove that it was this defendant doing these things, but unfortunately it just wasn’t able to be accomplished at that time,” Hutchinson said.
In his decision, Cook also noted Mathews’ criminal history — 20 convictions between 1996 and 2011. Past charges include harassment, assault, impersonating a law enforcement officer, and resisting arrest.
Rizzo, who declined additional comment, noted that the most recent other charges against his client were more than a decade old.
Mathews previously told The Inquirer that he was sorry for the incident and that his behavior stemmed from a long-running dispute with the homeowners’ association. He also said he was drunk at the time of the confrontation.
Mathews has seven days to appeal the ruling and is set to appear in court next on Aug. 25.
On Monday, Mount Laurel Mayor Stephen Steglik and State Assemblywoman Carol Murphy (D., Burlington) said that Mathews had threatened them, too.
After the hearing Wednesday, Gary Zangerle, attorney for the Essex Place Homeowners’ Association, said he had been in contact with residents regarding the ruling.
They are “obviously very pleased with this result,” Zangerle said. “They hope to never see Mr. Mathews again.”