Fairhope city attorney Marcus McDowell told the City Council Thursday night that he plans to refile a two-year old assault charge against restaurant owner Ronan McSharry, after McSharry’s guilty verdict was recently dismissed in Baldwin County Circuit Court.
As Lagniappe has previously reported, McSharry was convicted of a misdemeanor assault charge by Fairhope Municipal Judge Haymes Snedeker after the court determined he shoved victim Paula DiNardi off a barstool at the Little Whiskey Christmas Club in 2018.
McSharry later appealed that conviction and a related public intoxication conviction to circuit court, where Judge Clark Stankoski determined prosecutor and city attorney Marcus McDowell had made a “fatal error” on the charging document. The error, according to Stankoski, was McDowell omitted the claim McSharry “did cause physical injury to another person.”Still, two days after Lagniappe published a report on the dismissal,” the city appealed Stankoski’s decision to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals. There, Presiding Judge Mary Windom determined the city’s appeal was filed after the 14-day statutory deadline, but gave the city an additional 14 days to “show cause.” The city didn’t respond, and the appeal was ultimately dismissed May 7.
The case was raised during public participation last night by Fairhope citizen Paul Ripp, who cited McSharry’s lengthy police record in the city of Fairhope. Ripp called McSharry a “public nuisance” and said he’s advocated for three alleged victims of McSharry over the past 10 years.
Speaking directly to McDowell, Ripp said he “finds it interesting” the prosecutor allowed the assault charge to be dismissed on appeal when he alleged only the assault charge, not the public intoxication charge, could threaten McSharry’s state-issued liquor license.
“I think you’re in a very bad position and this looks horribly bad,” Ripp said. “I think the council should take some sort of action on this. Every one of these charges with McSharry are alcohol related and every one except [one] involves a woman … You need to do something. This is not right, it’s not fair, it’s not justice and it’s a very, very bad look as to how we treat women in this town. And it’s on video for Christ’s sake.”
Mayor Karin Wilson — who has been previously accused by McSharry’s attorney of meddling in the case and warned by McDowell not to speak with the victim — claimed she asked McDowell to recuse himself after his law firm allegedly “dropped the ball” on previous charges against McSharry.
“It is absolutely deplorable, there is no excuse for it and we have to do better,” she said.
Council President Jack Burrell allowed McDowell to respond, and McDowell alleged neither Ripp nor Wilson understood the rules of criminal procedure and suggested this particular case is a “political issue” for them both.
“I dismissed the appeal because it is quicker to get this case to trial if we go back and refile it as a new complaint,” McDowell said, speaking over the mayor at times. “Our plan is to go ahead and file the complaint.”
McDowell told Lagniappe last week the strategy was to let the assault charge be dropped because the public intoxication carries the same sentence and penalties. At the council meeting last night, he said the reason he allowed it to be dismissed was because the appeal would take as a long as two years, but if he refiled the charge, it’s “a much quicker venue for the witnesses and the victim in the case.”
He also claimed his response to appeal was not untimely filed because a COVID-19 order issued by the court allowed an extension. That extension was never noted by Windom or elsewhere in the court record.
As Wilson and McDowell argued about the case, Councilman Kevin Boone raised his voice to a shout to tell Wilson she was “holding up” the council and “we don’t agree with anything you’re saying.” Boone made a motion to adjourn and the council affirmed, but before video from the meeting ends, Ripp told the council, “you guys do a lot of shouting at women.”
In a separate civil case DiNardi filed against McSharry, Stankoski ordered this newspaper to turn over protected communication with sources.
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