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Local restaurant cancels event after talk of performer with pending sex offense case

SALISBURY — A local restaurant has canceled a weekend show after concerns were raised about a featured performer who has a pending court case that involves soliciting a 12-year-old for sex online.

Local musician Matthew Church, 32, was set to perform Friday night at Morgan Ridge Railwalk Brewery & Eatery. After much conversation about the event on social media, however, officials at Morgan Ridge confirmed that they had canceled the event. They provided no further comment.

Church’s attorney, Carlyle Sherrill, told the Post that the case has languished for about two years and had been virtually quiet until people began commenting online.

“It might have eventually gone away,” Sherrill said of the felony case.

The case is pending and has not been scheduled for a hearing this year.

Sherrill said he doubts the case will even go court. He had hoped it would be dismissed, he said, but that decision is up to the courts.

Sherrill said he was present when his client spoke with investigators and there was nothing in what he said to them that made the lawyer think anything occurred between Church and the young girl, other than conversation.

Sherrill said Church contacted him about the recent online discussions and what legal options he has to respond. He said this is an unpleasant situation for Church and that people have made “malicious” comments online about him.

Sherrill said his client is not bound by law to disclose pending court cases. He is a musician, and the performance was part of his livelihood, the attorney said.

In a Sept. 14 Facebook post that has since been deleted, Salisbury resident Roy Bentley shared a link to a brief story that ran in the Salisbury Post in August 2015. The article said Church was charged with the felony offense by the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office after an investigation by detectives.

He was given a $10,000 secured bond, which Church posted shortly after his arrest.

In the Facebook post, Bentley shared with his more than 800 friends that “this guy is playing a show at Morgan Ridge Railwalk Brewery & Eatery in the next few weeks. … He has not been convicted yet — but is still awaiting trial for soliciting sex from a local 12-year-old on Facebook.” He said the restaurant had been notified.

Bentley said he felt he had no other recourse than to post the information about Church.

Bentley encouraged those reading the post to consider contacting Morgan Ridge and expressing displeasure with the decision to book Church.

Some commenters said Church is innocent until proven guilty; others said they had misgivings about him, and others said the venue should not have Church perform.

Bentley, a father of three, posted on Facebook that he contacted the business to let the owners know he is “not just a guy with an ax to grind,” and they canceled the Church performance.

Bentley said when he saw that Church was performing, he remembered the story and wondered what happened with the case. He discovered the case is pending.

Many of the comments from the now-deleted post, Bentley said, were inappropriate, and he hid or deleted them. He said he let some friends go a little too far with their comments.

“I certainly didn’t mean anything malicious,” he said of his own comments.

He said he deleted the post because the business “did the right thing” and canceled Church’s performance.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.

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