(Update) Brad Meeks sentenced to 12 years in death of Curt Wilson, injury of Ashley Wilson

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Curtis James “Curt” Wilson (Photo courtesy of Ashley Wilson); Brad Meeks in a March 2019 booking photo (Cullman County Sheriff's Office)

Updated 5-14-20 at 1:36 p.m.

CULLMAN, Ala. – Cullman County Circuit Court Judge Gregory Nicholas on Tuesday sentenced Bradford Neal Meeks to 12 years in prison for the May 7, 2017 head-on crash that killed 15-year-old Cullman High School student Curtis James “Curt” Wilson and injured his mother Ashley Wilson. Nicholas imposed the maximum sentence for each charge: 10 years for criminally negligent homicide involving DUI, 12 months for third-degree assault and 12 months for DUI. Meeks was also convicted of improper lane usage, which is a simple traffic violation. He was convicted in January 2020.

Meeks’ sentence includes 10 years in a state prison for the homicide charge and 12-month sentences for each of the assault and DUI charges, both of which are to be served in the Cullman County Detention Center following completion of the state sentence. 

The DUI sentence carries further stipulations including a $1,200 fine and 90-day suspension of his driver’s license upon release from jail. Meeks will also be required to have an ignition interlock device installed in his vehicle for one year; the device uses a breathalyzer and will block the ignition if the person blowing tests positive for elevated levels of alcohol. Additionally, Meeks will have to complete a DUI or substance abuse court referral program.

Meeks will have to pay court costs including a $750 bail bond fee, $1,000 Crime Victim Compensation Assessment and $8,871.10 restitution to the Alabama Crime Victims Compensation Commission.

He was given 42 days to appeal his sentence, but did not immediately file an appeal.

Meeks had faced a charge of reckless murder, a Class A felony which could have carried up to a life sentence. Under the law, jurors can consider charges of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide in cases in which reckless murder is charged.

The fatal head-on collision that claimed Curt Wilson’s life occurred near 2045 County Road 222 in front of Van’s Sporting Goods.

Nicholas could have imposed the three sentences to be served concurrently for a total of 10 years, but opted to impose them consecutively, to be served separately.

Before the sentence was issued Tuesday, Ashley Wilson and members of her family spoke to the judge from prepared statements, which they made available afterward to The Tribune.

Ashley Wilson said, “I want to start by saying I feel sorry for Bradford Meeks, not for the reasons you might think- because he will never get the chance to know my son, Curtis James Wilson. Curtis had a way to put a smile on your face no matter what was going on in your life. Curtis always put others before himself. Curtis would have instantly become your best friend the moment you met him. Curtis had a way to find your strengths and bring them out to better this world. Due to Meeks’ actions on May 7, 2017, this entire world was robbed of such joy and the bright light Curtis brought to us all. We all lose here today because Curtis is no longer with us.

“I cringe when people call the tragic events that killed my son an accident. It was no accident. Meeks knew the risk of his action. He chose to put lives in danger and break the law yet again. Driving under the influence is a crime, one which holds punishments.

“No matter how hard I try, there are no words to describe the impact the crime committed against Curtis and myself has had on my life. It has dramatically changed my life for the worse: mentally, emotionally, physically and financially. You would have to experience such tragic loss to understand. But I would wish this on no one.

“Meeks has been given numerous times to change his life and to do better. Meeks has a family that loves him, as evidenced by the efforts that were apparently made to try to protect him and get him help. He has been given multiple opportunities through rehabs, probations, fines and mere slaps on the wrist. None has made a difference in the way he chooses to live his life. He has proven these consequences do not work. At the time Meeks killed my son he was on probation in two different counties, plus had a warrant for his arrest for a crime he committed the month before. Meeks feels he is above the law. All Americans should have faith and trust in our legal system to protect us from repeat offenders like Meeks; the system failed my son. I pray today you make the right decision to prevent another mother from this constant pain I live with daily. He must be given the max that the law allows. He must be given the consequences that equal his actions that will give him the overdue wakeup call he desperately needs.

“With Meeks’ lengthy record from DUIs, hit and runs, domestic violence, to attempted murder of a county deputy, it was a matter of time before someone was hurt. Unfortunately, it was the life of my innocent 15-year-old son, Curtis James Wilson, while Meeks was driving three times over the legal limit. If anything but the max is given today for the crimes that he has been convicted of, in my eyes and the eyes of this community, it will just be another slap on the wrist and a matter of time before another innocent life is taken.

“My last memories of my son are ones no mother should have to endure for her lifetime. My last memories of Curtis haunt me daily: memories of seeing my precious son brutally crushed in a truck that only moments before we were laughing in, knowing you are watching your son die helplessly in front of you. Curtis paid the ultimate price that day, a death sentence, with Meeks being the judge and jury that day. Curtis was never offered a plea deal or a chance at a trial. Meeks made all those decisions for Curtis the moment he got behind the wheel and committed another crime. Meeks also sentenced my family and myself to a life sentence with no chance of parole.

“I have forgiven Meeks. I bear no grudge or ill will. Bitter talk and thoughts will not bring Curtis back. Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does change the future.

“Thank you, Your Honor, for taking the time to listen. I now leave it in your hands with great hopes and trust that Curtis is seen as more than just another lifeless victim. Curtis is my son, Curtis is Blaise’s and Luke’s brother, Curtis is a grandson, Curtis is a nephew, Curtis is a cousin, Curtis is a friend to all. Curtis deserved to live his life. Curtis deserves to be remembered and Curtis James Wilson deserves justice. This community deserves justice. Please give us all that justice today.”

Dillon Lee, Ashley Wilson’s brother, recounted portions of Meeks’ criminal history, saying, “In January of 2015, Curt was studying hard to master the Rubik’s Cube he had gotten for Christmas, hoping to best his uncle Derrick’s solving time. Bradford Meeks was arrested for domestic violence and resisting arrest.

“In October of the same year, Curt took his mom on a date to watch the horror movie ‘The Visit’ in perfect celebration of the Halloween season. Mr. Meeks was failing out of his probation and rehabilitation, arrested for DUI, possessing an unlicensed firearm and attempting to escape custody.

“In December 2015, while Curt was preparing for mid-term exams and enjoying the mild winter days swinging in the backyard with my daughter Evie, Bradford Meeks continued his consistent behavior of violence and willful destruction, being arrested for harassment of his own family and firing a bow and arrow at a police officer. A charge that has been carelessly ignored by the justice system thus far, an action that any normal law-abiding citizen finds unthinkable.

“In April of 2017, Curt’s school year was winding down and his beloved Bearcat baseball team played Sparkman High School. When not practicing, he still made time to join a family game of Dungeons and Dragons at his grandmother’s house, while Bradford Meeks again ignored the law and civil society, caught on camera taking what he wanted from a local package store.

“I’ve omitted numerous other incidents of criminality by Mr. Meeks in which people and property were wantonly harmed both in this community and others. I’ve also omitted Curt’s countless acts of kindness, great and small, to his classmates, accounts of infectious laughter and humor, and sweet moments between a mother and a son, as close as any I’ve known.

“But you’ve just heard two stories: one of an adult on a path of self-destruction, unconcerned by who he hurts in the process, one of a child, growing into a caring, funny, charming, self-assured young man that had boundless potential to share with the world. One entirely selfish at the expense of all others in his orbit, one entirely selfless for the happiness of his team, his friends and his family.

“Justice failed Curt years before the jurors in this trial erroneously reduced the charges against Bradford Meeks. Justice failed Curt by not holding a man accountable for his consistently reckless, violent, criminal behavior. It failed Curt by giving a narcissistic ingrate more chances that he deserved. Do not fail him again today in this court. Give Bradford Meeks the maximum sentence possible. Hold Mr. Meeks wholly responsible for his choices, choices that tragically culminated in a loss that has inexorably transformed the lives of all those that knew and loved Curtis James Wilson.”

Chassi Waddell, Ashley Wilson’s sister, gave an emotional account of the impact of Curt’s death on his family, sharing, “Curt Wilson was the best person I ever knew. He was selfless, kind and generous. He was hilarious, both intentionally and unintentionally. He was attentive and considerate. He was somehow never angry a day in his life. He was a hardworking athlete. He was a devoted friend, an affectionate son and an admiring brother. He was tranquil. He was earnest. He was my nephew… And although I have seven nephews who I love equally, Curt would not miss an opportunity to quickly claim that he was my favorite.

“On May 7, 2017, I lost my nephew, the most inherently good human I’ve ever encountered. As if this sudden, heart-wrenching loss weren’t enough to endure, I came to realize in the weeks that followed that I had lost a lot more than Curt. I lost my entire family. 

“We have always been a tight-knit unit: family, but also friends. Every single holiday and birthday, and sometimes for no reason at all, we would gather at my mother’s house, staying for hours, talking, laughing or playing games. We genuinely enjoyed each other’s’ company. Family functions were a pleasure, not an obligation, that we enjoyed at least once a month.

“Since Curt died just over three years ago, I can count on one hand the number of times we have all been in the same room…including Curt’s funeral. 

“The empty chair at the table is just too difficult. Curt isn’t there cracking jokes, telling a rambling story or teasing his cousins. He’s not there to ‘play Santa’ and pass out the Christmas presents. He’s not there to rush outside to offer to help me unload my car, or challenge my husband to a Rubik’s Cube race or critique my mom’s cooking. He’s not there, and it’s just too hard.

“So my family gingerly navigates through life in a cloud of grief, keeping a modest distance because we know that if we’re all together, what we’re really thinking about is the one of us who isn’t there. Losing your sense of family so suddenly is an incredibly lost and lonely feeling that I’m not sure I can accurately describe. No matter how much time passes, everything in our lives is tainted by a layer of grief. It infects anything positive and intensifies anything negative.

“An entire family lives in perpetual heartache because of one selfish act from someone who has never learned that his actions have consequences. As humans, we all make mistakes, but there are valuable lessons for us in those mistakes. Brad Meeks has never learned his lesson. He didn’t learn it the first time he put someone’s life in danger, or the second time, or the third, or the fifth or the 10th, and if his behavior since May 7, 2017 is any indication, he still hasn’t learned it after taking the life of a child. I’m inclined to believe he never will. His actions are no longer ‘mistakes.’ They are the culmination of a lifestyle of self-centered, entitled debauchery.

“Brad Meeks has spent his entire life enabled to make poor decision after poor decision, with the help of his family and the legal system. He has benefited from bailouts, plea deals, minimum punishments and empty promises of reform and rehabilitation. That has to end today. He’s been given enough chances.

“In his freedom, Brad Meeks has proven that he is a selfish, habitual, repeat offender with no regard for human life. The legal system that allowed him to be driving on May 7, 2017 has failed every single citizen who has crossed his path since his life of misdeeds began. The possibility that Brad Meeks ‘might’ hurt someone someday wasn’t enough for people to demand justice. Unfortunately, my nephew paid the price for us all. Curt’s life didn’t matter enough to Brad Meeks, to the judges who sentenced Meeks on his multiple prior DUIs, to the Meeks family who continually enabled his behavior or to the jurors who determined this charge. 

“Curtis deserved so much better from the community he loved. He was not protected. He was not defended. Please make sure the next 15-year-old is.”

Meeks did not speak before sentencing. The Tribune reached out to a representative of the Cullman law firm Berry, Berry, Little, Brunner and Chaney, which defended Meeks; the representative said that the firm, by policy, will not issue a statement in the case.

Meeks will receive “jail credit” for time already served, but that amount of time was not immediately available.

After the hearing, Ashley Wilson told The Tribune, “There’s no winners in this. We’re all losers, because we have to live without Curt . . . And I just, I hope and pray that Meeks takes this time to better his life and to turn something positive out of all this.”

Background:

Meeks faced a charge of reckless murder, a Class A felony which could have carried up to a life sentence. Under the law, jurors can consider charges of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide in cases in which reckless murder is charged.

Criminally negligent homicide is a Class A misdemeanor, except in cases involving alcohol or drugs. Since Meeks was also convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher, the crime is classified as a Class C felony in this case and carries a sentence of from one year and one day up to 10 years.

Meeks was indicted in October 2017 on charges of reckless murder, DUI, DUI with blood alcohol concentration .08 or greater, unsafe lane change, driving on the wrong side of the road, possession of open container of alcoholic beverages in a motor vehicle and third-degree assault. 

The open container charge was dismissed, and the prosecution elected to go forward with the DUI with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or greater charge over the DUI charge.

The charges stemmed from the May 7, 2017 vehicle crash that killed Cullman High School student Wilson and injured Wilson’s mother, Ashley Wilson. The fatal head-on collision occurred near 2045 County Road 222 in front of Van’s Sporting Goods.

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W.C. Mann

craig@cullmantribune.com