A little more than a year has passed since Charles and Kimberly Matthews opened their home for their daughter’s wedding, an event that should have been a celebratory time.
But one of the guests at the June 28, 2014 ceremony and catered reception left the couple’s Vance Street home under the influence of alcohol, a factor that law enforcement officials say contributed to a fatal crash that landed the bride’s parents in criminal trouble.
This week, Hart Miles, a Raleigh attorney representing the Matthews family, filed a document in Wake County Superior Court seeking dismissal of the criminal charges. He contends his clients are victims of selective prosecution.
On Aug. 12, a month and a half after their daughter’s wedding, Charles and Kimberly Matthews were arrested and charged with four counts of aiding and abetting underage possession and consumption of alcohol.
One of the people they were accused of aiding was Jonathon Gregory Taylor, the 18-year-old son of a state trooper who left the party and 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 0.20, or almost 21/2 times the 0.08 threshold for impairment.
“The Wake County District Attorney’s decision to prosecute only the Matthews family is arbitrary and intentionally discriminatory,” the motion for dismissal states. “Other individuals at the wedding and reception who aided and abetted the possession of alcohol by underage persons have not been prosecuted despite evidence gathered by law enforcement.”
Thomas Matthews, son of Charles and Kimberly Matthews, was charged in the case, too. In August, when he was arrested, he was 18. He stands accused of three counts of giving spirituous liquor to an underage person and one count of underage purchase of alcohol.
Thomas Matthews invited Taylor and three other friends to join his family for the wedding. Before the wedding, 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 Daniels 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 the court document.
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 Kimberly Matthews, their attorney stated in the Monday filing.
Miles 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, 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 Cameron Village 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.
A trial in their criminal case is set for July 27, but the Matthews hope their case is dismissed before then.
“JT Taylor was a good friend of our son, and we are still in disbelief that he is gone,” the couple said in a prepared statement released by Miles. “Our hearts are with his parents. Unfortunately, the confusing circumstances have been misunderstood, and we were wrongfully accused of crimes we did not commit. We hope that everyone in the community will withhold judgment until the facts are in.”