A teen accused of being part of an underage drinking incident that led to a fatal car wreck last summer pleaded guilty Monday to illegally buying a bottle of Jack Daniel’s whiskey.
Thomas Blake Matthews, 19, pleaded guilty in Wake County Superior Court to underage purchase of alcohol, as his parents Charles and Kimberley Matthews awaited trial.
The Matthews were in criminal court on Monday, 13 months after their daughter was married at their Vance Street home. They were awaiting trial on charges that they aided and abetted underage drinking at the June 2014 wedding ceremony that should have been celebratory. Jury selection continued most of Monday. Opening statements are set for Tuesday morning.
One of the guests at the event left the neurologist’s home under the influence of alcohol.
Jonathon Gregory Taylor, the 18-year-old son of a state trooper, wrecked the 2008 BMW he was driving, about seven miles away on Hunting Ridge Road in North Raleigh. Law enforcement officers suspect Taylor, or “JT” as he was known among friends, was going 89 miles per hour when the car left the road and landed against a tree. He did not survive the single-car wreck. His blood-alcohol level, according to court documents, was about 2 1/2 times the 0.08 threshold for impairment.
Thomas Matthews had invited Taylor and three other friends to join his family for the wedding. Before the ceremony, Thomas Matthews, Taylor and two of the teenage girls he invited drove together to the Cameron Village ABC store to buy a bottle of Jack Daniel’s whiskey. None was of legal age to purchase alcohol, but the clerk, James Wilson, sold a bottle to Thomas Matthews without asking how old he was or checking an ID for proof of age, according to court documents.
The teens drove from the ABC store to a spot near the Matthews’ home and drank the whole bottle out of sight of any adults. “The purpose of going to another location away from the wedding was to conceal their illegal possession and consumption of alcohol,” the motion for dismissal states.
The four also were served drinks by the Cafe Parizade caterers who poured wine, champagne and beer at the reception. At no time during the party did the teens ask for permission to drink from Charles and Kimberley Matthews, their attorney stated in a court filing.
The Matthews have argued that prosecutors selectively charged them and sought dismissal of the criminal cases. But a judge denied that request.
In seeking dismissal, Hart Miles, a Raleigh attorney representing Charles Matthews, a 59-year-old doctor, and Kimberley Matthews, 52, pointed out that charges against the ABC clerk were voluntarily dismissed by the Wake County district attorney’s office and none of the caterers was charged. One of the teenage girls who had consumed alcohol was cited that night with underage consumption of alcohol after medical help was sought for her, but the district attorney dropped that charge, too.
Law enforcement officers collaborated with a Wake County assistant district attorney before filing charges on Aug. 12, and with Greg Taylor, the father of Jonathon Taylor and a state trooper, and his wife, Carrie.
The Taylors filed a lawsuit recently in Wake County court against the ABC store, the Wake County ABC board that operates the store, the caterers and Ridgewood Wine & Beer, which supplied the wine, beer and champagne for the reception and is a company co-owned by the groom at the wedding.
Kieran Shanahan, a Raleigh attorney representing the Taylors in the civil suit, said his clients support the criminal prosecution, but were consulted by the district attorney’s office as victims in a criminal case, not as advisers about charges filed. The Matthews were not named in the civil suit, but that looms as a possibility, lawyers say.