A Tucson man was legally drunk when he was involved in a crash that killed a Maricopa County Superior Court judge last month, according to the Arizona Department of Public Safety.
James E. Matthewson, 26, told investigators he drank the last of three beers about eight hours before the April 6 crash in which Judge John Gaylord, who was driving a motorcycle, collided with a boat being hauled by Matthewson that swerved into his lane.
Matthewson’s blood alcohol content was .088 percent — just slightly higher than the legal limit — an hour and 15 minutes after the crash, a DPS report made public Thursday says.
The report has been forwarded to the Pima County Attorney’s Office.
Collisions can result in a range of charges from negligent homicide, manslaughter, second-degree murder and even first-degree murder depending on the circumstances, said Bruce Chalk, supervisor of the Pima County Attorney Vehicular Offenses division.
Gaylord was driving his 2005 Harley-Davidson north on state Route 79 about 15 miles south of Florence when he collided with the boat after Matthewson lost control of his southbound 1999 Range Rover sport utility vehicle.
The boat was on its side and rolling when Gaylord drove into it.
Gaylord, who lived in Chandler, was on a ride with Rick V. Husk, a deputy Pinal County attorney when the crash occurred.
The Pima County Attorney’s Office is handling the case to avoid a potential conflict of interest due to Husk’s involvement.
Matthewson and his three passengers were returning to Tucson after spending the day at Apache Lake.
Matthewson told investigators he saw a set of headlights that appeared to belong to an approaching car, but the motorcycle swerved into his lane at the last moment.
“The last thing I saw was that the vehicle was in fact 2 motorcycles and it looked like one was going to come through the windshield,” Matthewson wrote shortly after the crash.
Matthewson’s girlfriend, who was in the front passenger seat, said essentially the same thing.
Investigators concluded, however, that Gaylord collided with the boat in his lane because oil from the motorcycle’s crushed front forks marked the spot of impact.
There also were no signs of evasive action or braking on Gaylord’s part or evidence that he was left of the center line, investigators say.
Investigators say evidence shows that the SUV veered slowly off the road, the two right side tires going onto the shoulder, before Matthewson steered left and hit his brakes.
That caused the SUV to rotate counterclockwise, swinging the boat and trailer as they crossed into the northbound lane and began rolling.
An off-duty Florence police officer was near the crash site at a rest stop when he heard the collision and saw Husk pull up and turn around to return.
The officer, William Tatlock, said he had been following the motorcycles earlier and saw them slow from about 65 mph to 45 mph to force vehicles to pass them.
Tatlock had to pass them as well and he thought their actions were hazardous, the report states.