Baldwin County Circuit Court Judge Clark Stankoski dismissed an assault charge against Fairhope restaurant owner Ronan McSharry March 26, one which McSharry pleaded guilty to in municipal court last April.
Since that conviction, however, McSharry appealed both the assault charge and a related public intoxication charge to the circuit court. In his order dismissing the assault charge, Stankoski determined the city of Fairhope’s charging document contained a fatal defect: It failed to allege that McSharry “did cause physical injury to another person.”
The incident, in which McSharry was accused of shoving Paula DiNardi off a bar stool at the Little Whiskey Christmas Club on Nov. 23, 2018, was captured on camera. DiNardi has filed a separate civil complaint against McSharry, seeking damages for physical and emotional distress, including an allegation that McSharry conspired to “harass and intimidate” her from testifying against him.
While both the civil case and the public intoxication charge are proceeding, Stankoski’s order makes clear the city of Fairhope’s “failure to charge an offense is the kind of defect involved in due process and cannot be waived.”
In order to correct the defect, the city attempted to file an amended complaint earlier this year. But Stankoski noted “the law does not permit the city of Fairhope to amend the complaint, at this stage of litigation, without the consent of the Defendant.”
“The Court is not commenting on the facts, potential evidence or likely outcome of a jury trial in the [case], but is merely ruling that the city of Fairhope may not proceed with the charge as alleged in the Complaint,” he wrote. “It is their responsibility to correctly track the language of the municipal ordinance (or statute) in the complaint.”
The prosecutor in the case was Fairhope city attorney Marcus McDowell. Municipal Judge Haymes Snedeker accepted McSharry’s original guilty plea and imposed a sentence of 180 days in jail with credit for two months allegedly spent in a rehabilitation facility. It is not known whether McSharry has served any of his sentence.
Lagniappe began reporting on the assault case and McSharry’s criminal history after one of his attorneys, John Beck, sought to have the case dismissed based on alleged “politically motivated” interference by Fairhope Mayor Karin Wilson.
Since then, another attorney for McSharry, James Pittman, subpoenaed this newspaper for “any and all communications” with public officials in Fairhope, other local media figures and attorneys.
Stankoski, who is also presiding over the civil case, partially granted Pittman’s subpoena in January, arguing the state’s shield law does protect a newspaper’s sources, but does not protect the information they provide. Lagniappe has asked Stankoski to reconsider the decision and has turned over no information in the case.
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