SALISBURY, NC (WBTV) - A popular Salisbury nightspot found itself in the center of controversy after a social media post pointed out that a musician scheduled to perform at a "family friendly" event had pending sex crimes charges.
Mathew Ferrell Church, 30, of N. Main Street, was arrested in 2015 for felony solicit a child by computer, according to the Rowan Sheriff's Office.
Deputies say the investigation involved the solicitation of a 12-year-old child by use of a social media website.
The charges are still pending, according to the Clerk of Court's office, and Church was released on $10,000 bond shortly after being charged.
Church was scheduled to play at Morgan Ridge Railwalk on Friday night in an event described on the business web site as "family friendly."
That event has now been cancelled, according to Morgan Ridge owner Amie Morgan Baudoin.
A post on Facebook about the concert and the pending charges generated hundreds of comments and shares:
This guy is playing a show at Morgan Ridge Railwalk Brewery & Eatery in the next few weeks. The venue has been made aware of the fact that this person is a pederast and has no interest in sending him away. He has not been convicted yet -- but is still awaiting trial for soliciting sex from a local 12 year old on Facebook.
Please consider contacting the venue and expressing your displeasure with their decision. As for me, I will not be going to their restaurant or consuming Morgan Ridge Vineyards-Brewhouse products if they do not take action.
Roy Bentley made the original post. He told WBTV that he was amazed at the response.
"I said, you know what, I'll go public with it. I'm really worried about it. I have a ten-year-old daughter," Bentley said. "I don't want this guy to meet a new victim in my town in a family-friendly environment like Morgan Ridge. I was really floored at how many people jumped all over that shared it…"
Reached this morning, Church referred WBTV to his attorney, Carlyle Sherrill.
"He hasn't done anything to a young lady, he's had no actions that would in any way involve a young girl, except to communicate with her," Sherrill told WBTV.
Sherrill said that he doesn't believe Church is guilty of any crime and may have legal recourse when it comes to the comments being made about him.
"He's charged with something that in my opinion he shouldn't have been charged with so why should he stop his life? Why should he stop his livelihood just because of these charges brought against him?" Sherrill said.
"People are treading on very thin ice when they make these accusations and say that people should not patronize a particular business when he's going to be there because that's affecting his income," Sherrill added.
Bentley said that he had been told that the show was cancelled, and it no longer appears on a schedule of events posted by the restaurant.
"I think once they saw the outpouring from the community, learned the facts, they made the right decision," Bentley said. "I'm really happy that Morgan Ridge showed themselves to be family friendly and not give this guy an opportunity to meet a new potential victim."
The restaurant's owner told WBTV that they just found about the felony charges last week.
"He's not been convicted. Are we so shallow that we play this role on his part and not support him?" Baudoin said. "Social media wins on this because we don't even get a chance to filter through all of this."
"We are all about having a good business for downtown Salisbury. That's what we promote, that's what we signed up for, this is like being forced to make a decision without being given enough time to play it out," Baudoin added.