BRENTWOOD — In requesting a judge impose the stiffest criminal penalty on a business for serving alcohol to an underage patron, Hope McDonald told the courtroom Friday that the owner of Stratham’s Jade Palace made a “practice” of over-serving customers. Her son, Jack Perreault, 20, was killed along with his two friends, Malachi Davis and Hunter Vars, in a one-car drunken-driving accident after they left the restaurant on Feb. 29, 2016. Perreault was the driver.
“He’s not just a (blood)-alcohol level, he’s a boy. He had green eyes, he was strong and he had an amazing smile,” said McDonald. “You served him drink after drink after drink and you shut him off and sent him out the door. We have empty seats at our table and Christmas stockings with names on them.”
Alan Yang Inc. was sentenced Friday in Rockingham County Superior Court after a jury convicted the corporate entity owning the Stratham Chinese restaurant this past November of serving alcohol to Perreault, who was 20 years old at the time. Judge N. William Delker imposed the maximum criminal penalty of $100,000 to the corporation owned by Alan Yang. He also ordered Yang to pay an additional $24,000 penalty by March 1.
The fine can be suspended for three years if Yang relinquishes his liquor license for one year or pay $25,000 to a court designated organization that addresses underage drinking.
Delker said Yang, who served Perreault and his two friends the night of the accident, “led directly to the deaths of the three boys.”
The corporation was originally charged with four felony counts of prohibited alcohol sales but it was found not guilty by a jury of over-serving Perreault, and Davis and Vars, who were both 21 at the time. All three were Exeter High School alumni from East Kingston, and the fatal crash occurred in Kensington.
The state argued Perreault showed Yang a ski pass as his identification and was still served.
“(The jury) found that you should’ve known that Jack was under 21 or there was something about the ID that he handed you that day that should’ve tipped you off it wasn’t a valid ID,” Delker said.
Prior to the sentence being handed down, Assistant County Attorney Melissa Fales showed this wasn’t the first time Jade Palace had alcohol violations.
Stratham police Sgt. John Emerson testified that he responded to two incidents of over-serving complaints at the restaurant in 2014, resulting in fines and a two-day license suspension.
“What is important for the court to pay attention to in this case is the fact that Jade Palace has had a history of violations,” Fales said.
Yang’s attorney, Jerome Blanchard, argued it was not uncommon for restaurants in business for a number of years to have been disciplined for over-serving a customer on a handful of occasions. In bringing up Jade Palace’s prior violations, he accused prosecutors of “relitigating” the trial, in which Alan Yang Inc. was found not guilty on three of four charges.
Blanchard had requested a $5,000 fine on the business to which Delker called, “quite frankly offensive.”
“We’re here today not for over-serving convictions, we’re here for serving a minor,” Blanchard said. “The jury spoke to (over-serving) and it was not guilty.”
In addition to McDonald, Vars’ mother Debra and father, Ron, as well as Davis’ mother Jennifer, all addressed the court. They each said Alan Yang’s restaurant had developed a reputation as being one where intoxicated people would not get cut off and blamed his actions for the deaths of their children.
After the hearing, they said they thought Delker’s sentence was appropriate.
“The judge did a good job taking all the evidence into consideration, given what he was (dealing with) as far as the charges were concerned. He made the best decision,” said Davis. “(The sentence both does and doesn’t help), it’s part of the process we’re going to continue to press forward.”
“We’re here today because my son Hunter Vars is not. Mr. Yang took his money and watched him walk out the door, my only son, his mother’s only child,” Ron Vars said. “I’m certain my boy rests in peace, but I have no peace and I hope Mr. Yang has none either.”
Alan Yang Inc. could face additional discipline from the state Liquor Commission and both Davis and Debra Vars said they are pursuing civil legal action against the company. They declined to comment on the status of their litigation.