NEWBURYPORT – A former Newburyport resident charged with indecent assault and battery of a person over 14 while working in a Topsfield church avoided jail time after the charge was reduced to assault and battery.

In Newburyport District Court last Thursday, 42-year-old Matthew Beish admitted a judge or jury could find him guilty of assault and battery and saw the charge against him continued without a finding for a year. 

If Beish stays out of trouble with the law and has no contact with his victim during that time, the charge against him will be dropped.

A search of court documents related to the case did not reveal why the charge was reduced. However, months earlier a second indecent assault and battery of a child over 14 was dismissed after the statute of limitations ran out.

The statute of limitations sets the maximum time in which legal proceedings have to be initiated from the date of an alleged offense. While the time limit for indecent assault and battery of a child over 14 is six years, there is no time limit for more serious offenses such as murder.

Beish, now of Grampian, Pennsylvania, was arraigned in Newburyport District Court on Feb. 2, 2018,  weeks after Newburyport police filed the complaint based on testimony of the victim. 

Beish was employed at Our Savior Lutheran Church in Topsfield for at least 15 years, according to a police report.

During that time, he was in charge of admissions and took part in worship. There were no other complaints filed against Beish, the report said.

Police said the victim, who is now in his mid-20s, decided to tell them about the incidents after hearing about other abuses of power on a national level, specifically allegations against actor Kevin Spacey and TV news personality Matt Lauer.

He told police that Beish became his communion adviser when the victim was in seventh grade and over the years, the two would go to the movies, golfing and to amusement parks, in addition to tutoring in Bible studies.

By the time he was 16, the victim would accompany Beish to his Newburyport apartment, where he began washing the teen’s feet while reading scripture to him. Over the next several months, the touching became more involved, according to the report.

Staff writer Dave Rogers can be reached by email at drogers@newburyportnews.com. Follow him on Twitter: @drogers41008.