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Published: Tuesday, 4/15/2014 - Updated: 4 months ago

Ottawa Hills teen testifies that no one asked for ID in liquor store

Student’s friend later died in car accident in 2013

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Former Foxx Liquor Store clerk Nicholas Thompson, left, speaks with attorneys Andy Douglas and Rick Kerger, right.  He is charged with selling or furnishing intoxicating liquor to a minor. Former Foxx Liquor Store clerk Nicholas Thompson, left, speaks with attorneys Andy Douglas and Rick Kerger, right. He is charged with selling or furnishing intoxicating liquor to a minor.
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Just 17 at the time, Blake Pappas said he and two friends pooled their cash after school one Friday and went to Foxx Liquor on Dorr Street, where he purchased a large, $53 bottle of Belvedere vodka.

“Did anyone ask you for an ID?” Charles McDonald, an assistant Lucas County prosecutor, asked Mr. Pappas on the witness stand Monday.

“No,” he replied.

“Did anyone at any time ask you for an ID?” Mr. McDonald asked.

“No,” Mr. Pappas said.

“Did you present any ID?” the prosecutor asked.

“No,” Mr. Pappas said again.

Now 19 and a student at the University of Cincinnati, Mr. Pappas told the jury that as a senior at Ottawa Hills High School he had a fake identification card, but said he did not have it with him and did not use it Feb. 1, 2013 — the day he purchased the vodka.

Later that same day, one of his friends who accompanied him to Foxx Liquor, Brian Hoeflinger, 18, died in a drunken driving crash after consuming the liquor.

On trial is Nicholas Thompson, 38, of 340 S. Reynolds Rd., a former employee of Foxx who is charged with selling or furnishing intoxicating liquor to a minor. The misdemeanor carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $500 fine.

Judge James Bates ruled prior to the start of the trial that attorneys were not to mention the fatal crash to the jury. Midafternoon, the judge told jurors that they might hear references to “an accident” but that they were to disregard those because they were not relevant to this case, which only involves the alleged sale of alcohol to a minor.

Michael Geiger, who also was a senior at Ottawa Hills and a friend of Mr. Pappas and Mr. Hoeflinger, testified that no IDs were requested at the store. He said that a female clerk had retrieved the bottle of Belvedere for them and that a male clerk with a description matching Mr. Thompson rang up the sale for Mr. Pappas.

Defense attorney Andy Douglas, a former Ohio Supreme Court justice, questioned Mr. Geiger repeatedly about whether he witnessed the transaction.

Mr. Geiger, who is now a kicker for the Michigan State University football team, said he was “right next to it” but not watching directly. He said he and Mr. Hoeflinger were “looking at candy or something” and that he was “no more than 10 yards away.”

Mr. Pappas also testified that he had bought alcohol at Foxx from Mr. Thompson without an ID on previous occasions. In response to Mr. McDonald’s questioning, he told the jury he had agreed to testify at the trial with the promise that no charges would be brought against him.

The jury heard Mr. Thompson’s voice through a recorded interview with Agent Michael Hakeos of the Ohio Department of Public Safety’s investigative unit, held on April 16, 2013 — about 2½ months after the transaction in question.

Mr. Thompson said he didn’t remember making the sale but recognized Mr. Pappas as a customer who came into the store quite a bit.

Mr. Thompson said in the interview that it was “possible” he’d rung up the sale to Mr. Pappas because he’d seen him in the store before.

Agent Hakeos testified that investigators concluded Mr. Thompson made the sale in part because he was the only male employee working that day who fit the general description the young men provided.

Agent Keenan Reese, an alcohol enforcement agent with the Ohio Department of Public Safety, testified that he witnessed an underage informant purchase a bottle of malt liquor Sept. 8, 2012, from Mr. Thompson at Foxx Liquor.

Mr. Thompson did not ask for an ID at that time, he said, and was cited for furnishing beer to an underage person.

Defense attorney Rick Kerger pointed out that Mr. Thompson admitted that offense and pleaded guilty. In the 2013 case, he said his client denies selling the vodka without asking for an ID.

The trial is to resume at 9:30 a.m. today and is expected to conclude today.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at: jfeehan@theblade.com or 419-213-2134.



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