Old Jailhouse opened in February. I reviewed it, favorably, here in April. And then, in May, its owner Anthony Sirica was arrested and charged with attempted sexual battery and indecent exposure. The allegations and resulting news stories had an immediate and negative effect on the restaurant’s business.
Still, Old Jailhouse has remained open and has earned further accolades, including being voted Best New and Best Overall in our 2019 Foodster Awards for Independent Restaurants.
The announcement of the awards caused a resurfacing of the owner’s legal woes. Some readers questioned whether the Sanford restaurant should even have been nominated let alone “allowed” to win. (Foodster Awards are voted on by the readers.)
It made me wonder about the status of the charges and whether there has been any resolution. So I contacted Sirica’s lawyer, Longwood attorney David Webster, who spoke to me by phone Monday.
“There’s a whole other side of the story,” said Webster. “It will all come out.” According to Webster, depositions in the case are expected to be taken in February with a court trial in March or April.
Webster wanted to correct a widespread misunderstanding about the alleged incident, in that it involved an employee of the restaurant. It did not, he said. In fact, says Webster, the woman making the allegations was not an employee at all but was rather a contract worker hired by Sirica to help clear out a storage unit. The police report identified her as a general laborer.
As is usual in cases involving allegations of sexual misconduct, the identity of the accuser has not been made public.
Webster also questioned the veracity of the accuser. “She’s had contact with law enforcement” in the past, he said. Going through papers as we talked, Webster rattled off a list of alleged offenses including battery, shoplifting, resisting arrest, aggravated assault, possession of a firearm, fraud, false ID, disturbing the peace and crimes against the elderly. He said he counted 41 incidences of domestic violence, approximately half as the petitioner and half as the respondent. He did not say how any of the charges were resolved.
And of course having a rap sheet doesn’t mean a person can’t be the victim of an assault. There is also the issue of an apparent video of part of the encounter between Sirica and the accuser, which she surreptitiously recorded. An article in the Orlando Sentinel shortly after the arrest said that in an interview with a detective, Sirica denied having sex with the woman but he could not explain what was seen and heard in the video.
Perhaps that will in the “whole other side of the story” that Webster says will come out if and when the case goes to trial.
In the meantime, the decision to patronize Old Jailhouse is ultimately yours. The people cooking and serving the food would tell you that they are the ones made to suffer. But there’s also no denying that profits profit a business’s owner.