Convicted child molester Steven Matlak was sentenced to 40 years in prison Monday for sexually abusing six girls in 2017.

The 44-year-old Matlak of Fresno, who at one time was a trusted lawyer and friend, confessed to the victim’s family members that he lied and manipulated them to gain access to their children, all under the age of 10.

Detectives said the victims – all of whom knew Matlak’s daughter – have accused the attorney of touching them inappropriately.

“I took advantage of the trust you had in me and manipulated and abused it in the worse way, I am so sorry for what I have done to you and your families,” Matlak said. “You were friendly and kind to me and I repaid it by stabbing you in the back.”

Matlak agreed to a plea deal with the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office, where he accepted a 40-year prison term in exchange for pleading guilty to several charges including lewd or lascivious act with a minor and continuous sexual abuse of a child.

Deputy District Attorney Prathna Mehta prosecuted the case.

Matlak, who specialized in business law, trusts and estates, talked about struggling with sexual addiction, and even sought treatment while his case was going through the courts. Matlak was admitted to the State Bar of California is no longer allowed to practice law in the state.

“I owed you an apology a long time ago,” he said to the victim’s families. “And please convey my apologies to your daughters for I am very sorry for the harm I have caused them.”

One of the victim’s parents wasn’t in a forgiving mood when he spoke in court Monday. Two of his daughters were molested by Matlak and the family’s lives have been changed forever. His children have gone through counseling to deal with feelings of anxiety, fear and distrust.

He and his wife have also been to counseling to help repair their fractured family.

“I bought new security doors, and cameras to make sure my daughters feel that much more safer in our home,” the father said “I am not trusting anybody anymore with the responsibility to take care of or watch my children.”

A mother of one of the victims said 40 years in prison wasn’t enough justice for her. She also chastised Matlak for blaming a sexual addiction for what he did. He’s a pedophile, she said.

“Forty years will not repair the damage to innocent little girls who will potentially have to navigate every romantic relationship through the broken lens of being preyed upon by a gross old man,” she said.

Matlak’s attorney Harry Drandell defended his client’s decision to accept a 40-year prison sentence.

“I know some may have wanted more, but he needs to serve 85 percent of his sentence,” Drandell said. “He will be in his late 70s or early 80s and have to register as a sex offender for life. His punishment is not insignificant in that regard.”

Judge Michael Idiart called Matlak’s actions, “horrific” and hoped the victims and their families can find some solace in all of this.

“I know this is difficult for the family and it would be easy for me to say I hope you can heal and get over this, but my suspicion is you will never get over it,“ Idiart said. “The only issue is how you deal with it, so good luck.”

Original Article: https://www.fresnobee.com/news/local/article254215948.html