NEWLAND — A 25-year-old from Newland and former Watauga County Sheriff’s Office cadet was convicted on Aug. 24 in Avery County Superior Court of five counts of felony taking indecent liberties with a child and three counts of felony statutory sex offense with a child less than 15 years old.

According to District Attorney Seth Banks, Mathew Paul Nieland, of 268 Trice Fork Mountain Road, found his victims while coaching youth soccer.

Resident Superior Court Judge Gregory Horne sentenced Nieland to prison for a minimum of 16 years and a maximum of 24 years and 3 months, according to Banks. Upon release from prison, Nieland will serve five years of post-release supervision. Horne also ordered Nieland to register as a sex offender for 30 years to begin upon completion of his prison sentence.

According to the N.C. Department of Public Safety, Nieland was admitted to Central Prison in Raleigh on Aug. 25. He was placed in restrictive housing for administrative purposes in close custody.

Nieland was in the first phase of a 12-week training program with WCSO when he was first charged in July 2018; he was subsequently terminated from his cadet position by Watauga County Sheriff Len Hagaman.

Hagaman previously stated that Nieland’s illegal encounters with minors would all have occurred in Avery County, while Nieland was an Appalachian State criminal justice intern at the Avery County Sheriff’s Office. At the time, Nieland was enrolled in the Western Piedmont Community College Basic Law Enforcement Training program.

The court issued a permanent no-contact order with all of Nieland’s victims. Banks stated that all families harmed by Nieland issued statements to the court expressing how Nieland’s crimes affected not only their families, but the community at large.

“Mr. Nieland is a predator who used the pretext of coaching to victimize the most vulnerable members of our community,” Banks said in a statement. “My office will continue to work tirelessly to seek justice for those who have suffered at the hand of individuals like Mathew Paul Nieland.”

Banks thanked Assistant District Attorney Milton Fletcher and the State Bureau of Investigation for their “tireless work in the course of this lengthy investigation.”

Kayla Lasure contributed reporting to this article.

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