THE NAME Fabrizio Matrascia didn’t ring a bell with Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle Jon Runyan. It’s doubtful that former presidential hopeful Ron Paul knows him either.
Last Monday, however, as word spread through the Camden County Hall of Justice that “Fabrizio” was in court again, lawyers, court personnel and more than a handful of sheriff’s officers had all but filled Judge John Kelley’s courtroom to watch.
Matrascia, 47, is charged with receiving stolen property, some of it allegedly from Runyan’s Burlington County home. In 2007, authorities say, they found Runyan’s stolen trailer and more of the popular lineman’s belongings at Matrascia’s large home in Bellmawr. Matrascia also is accused of having another trailer, allegedly stolen from Philadelphia, that police say was recovered in Pine Hill, also in Camden County.
The charges are not the only reason Matrascia’s reputation has spread through South Jersey courts. Like Runyan, he’s big and imposing. His courtroom appearances are theatrical and confrontational. In court on Monday, he wore a sweatsuit and leather jacket, eyeglasses perched atop his bald head.
“I am a living human being, a man created in God’s image,” Matrascia, who was there without a lawyer, told the judge. “This court cannot continue. ”
Ron Paul signs on the lawn
All the legal work Matrascia is doing on the Runyan case may be keeping him from removing the three enormous Ron Paul campaign signs on the front lawn of his home, which he built and which he once tried to sell for $1.28 million.
“When I get around to it, I’ll get around to it,” he told the Daily News about removing the signs. “I have many other things that have my priority. ”
Bellmawr officials tried to force Matrascia to remove the signs last year, citing a ban on political signs, but chose not to go forward when Matrascia cited his First Amendment rights and similar cases that have been shot down.
The borough is planning to draft an ordinance that would limit the size of signs and how long they may remain up. Matrascia’s have been in place almost a year.
“They were there when what’s-his-name was in the heat of the primary,” said Borough Solicitor Robert Messick, referring to Paul, a congressman from Texas who ran for president last year. “I can’t even remember his name. ”
Matrascia’s response, in both the Runyan and Paul cases, has been to file lawsuits and complaints against just about everyone involved.
“He’s doing everything to defy common sense,” said Bellmawr Mayor Frank Filipek. “Every single judge in the county knows him. ”
Judges in Burlington County know him, too: On Jan. 5, a Superior Court judge there dismissed numerous official-misconduct complaints that Matrascia had filed against Camden County Prosecutor Warren Faulk, two assistant prosecutors, five Camden municipal or Superior Court judges, sheriff’s officers and a state police sergeant. The complaints had been moved to Burlington County to avoid a conflict of interest.
Jon Runyan’s trailer?
There are two sides to the stolen-trailers case – and, over breakfast at a Camden County diner, Matrascia insisted that his is the truth.
“I don’t think,” he said. “I know. ”
According to Mount Laurel police, an 8-by-18-foot Car Mate walk-in cargo trailer containing all-terrain vehicles, dirt bikes and yard equipment was stolen in July 2005 from Runyan’s home on Mount Laurel Road.
“They cut the locks and took it right out of my driveway,” Runyan, who has since bought a new trailer, told the Daily News. “I don’t know if they targeted the trailer because it was my house. ”
Runyan was not familiar with Matrascia.
“He’s not in jail?” he asked.
According to investigation documents, which the state provided to Matrascia, the New Jersey State Police Auto Unit received a tip in March 2005 that a trailer that had been stolen from Philadelphia was parked in the driveway of a large house east of Route 168 on Browning Road in Bellmawr.
Matrascia’s home, one of the largest in Bellmawr, is on West Browning Road – one of many holes in the case, he says.
In December 2006, Matrascia claims, state police trespassed on his property – which contains numerous no-trespassing signs – and violated his Fourth Amendment rights to ascertain the special-vehicle-identification number on what they believe was Runyan’s trailer.
According to court documents, the identification number on Runyan’s trailer frame was linked to a much smaller trailer. A similar identification number, with one numeral transposed, did match Runyan’s trailer, however – which investigators chalked up to a manufacturer’s error.
Matrascia says that it’s another example of official misconduct and that he “knows” that investigators fabricated the number “in a little room somewhere. ”
When state police arrested Matrascia on April 18, 2007, in Bellmawr, and charged him with receiving stolen property, he says, they violated his rights again by looking through his garage window to observe other items they claim were stolen.
State police say that both stolen trailers were registered to Matrascia as “homemade,” a common tactic to avoid detection. Matrascia says he has receipts and titles for the trailers but hasn’t handed them over because investigators “didn’t ask. ”
Many days in court
In court last Monday, Judge Kelley said that Matrascia’s is one of the oldest outstanding cases in Camden County.
“Do you ever want to have your day in court?” the judge asked.
Actually, Matrascia has had several. One attorney representing him was removed from the case at the lawyer’s request. A judge ordered Matrascia to undergo a psychiatric evaluation (which Matrascia says came back “fine”).
Last Monday, Kelley ordered another lawyer, Ralph Kramer, to assist Matrascia with the case. That didn’t go well, either.
“He is fired right now,” Matrascia said, before Kelley even finished.
Matrascia opened his remarks by telling Kelley that his name, when written in capital letters, was now copyrighted.
“Where shall I send you the invoice for the copyright infringement?” he asked.
As sheriff’s officers slowly made their way into the courtroom, arms folded or hands on their hips, Matrascia alternately refused to accept documents from the prosecutor’s office, called Kelley “treasonous” and likened the court to a “star chamber. ”
“Justice does not live here,” he said, as he left the courtroom.
Sheriff’s officers trailed him up one floor to another courtroom, where he was late for a hearing in another lawsuit.