Culture News

Phoenix Comicon Gunman Matthew Sterling Pleads Not Guilty

The Maricopa County Superior Court building in downtown Phoenix.
The Maricopa County Superior Court building in downtown Phoenix. Benjamin Leatherman
Matthew Sterling, the Valley man arrested at last month’s Phoenix Comicon while armed with a cache of weapons, had his day in court.

The 29-year-old Mesa resident pleaded not guilty during his arraignment in Maricopa County Superior Court on Tuesday, June 13.

Sterling was arrested on May 25 at the Phoenix Convention Center after allegedly bringing three handguns, a shotgun, a combat knife, and other weapons into the venue during Phoenix Comicon 2017. He was also allegedly wearing body armor and carrying pepper spray and throwing stars.

click to enlarge
Matthew Sterling's mugshot.
According to court documents, Sterling also allegedly intended to kill Mighty Morphin Power Rangers star Jason David Frank, a special guest at this year’s Comicon, and any “bad police officers” that crossed his path.

Phoenix Police detectives also say that Sterling claimed he was a real-life version of famed Marvel Comics vigilante The Punisher.

Sterling was charged with attempted murder, resisting arrest, multiple counts of aggravated assault, carrying a weapon in a prohibited place, and wearing body armor during the commission of a felony. He’s currently in custody on a $1 million cash bond.

Sterling’s court appearance on Tuesday was brief. Dwane Cates, the local criminal defense attorney who’s representing Sterling, did most of the talking, including entering the plea on his client’s behalf.

(Longtime viewers of Dateline NBC may recognize Cates, as he appeared in a 2014 episode concerning a local murder case he was involved with. He’s also appeared on Fox News, Tru TV, CNN, HLN, and CNBC.)

Cates declined to comment to New Times on Sterling's case and wouldn't specify what sort of defense he’ll pursue.

Sterling will be in court again for pretrial conferences on July 25 and September 6.
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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.