Paula DiNardi still believes she is an assault victim. Video shows she was sitting on a barstool at the Little Whiskey Christmas Club in Fairhope on Nov. 22, 2018 when Ronan McSharry struck her in the throat with his forearm, causing her to fall backwards to the concrete floor, inflicting what she says was a concussion and “serious physical injury.”
McSharry, the owner of McSharry’s Irish Pub, was on probation at the time. Roughly two months earlier, he pleaded guilty to “breach of peace,” a charge stemming from his alleged harassment of artist Nall Hollis. Hollis’ gallery is across the street from McSharry’s bar, and McSharry was accused of directing “abusive, offensive and or vulgar language and/or gestures toward Mr. Hollis” on March 19, 2017. His sentence in that case was 12 months of probation, with an order to have no contact with Hollis and to have “no distilled liquors and shall not become inebriated.”
But when police were called to the Little Whiskey Christmas Club in response to DiNardi’s assault claim, they found McSharry had a “strong odor of alcohol,” “slurred his speech” and was so intoxicated “he couldn’t hardly walk,” according to officers’ testimony. Plus, the surveillance video that captured the attack was shown to the court. Fairhope Municipal Judge Haymes Snedeker found McSharry guilty of both counts and imposed a sentence of 180 days.
But then McSharry appealed. As Lagniappe reported last month, the assault charge was dismissed by Circuit Court Judge Clark Stankoski in March after he determined the city prosecutor, Marcus McDowell, made a fatal error on the charging document: omitting the fact that McSharry “did cause physical injury to another person.”
On April 17, two days after Lagniappe published a report about the assault charge being dropped, McDowell filed an appeal to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals. But on April 23, the court notified McDowell he failed to file a required docketing statement, pursuant to Alabama’s Rules of Appellate Procedure. Also, Presiding Judge Mary Windom wrote that the appeal was not filed within the statutory 14-day time period.
Still, Windom allowed McDowell 14 days to “show cause” as to why the appeal should not be dismissed, but according to the court record, it appears he never responded. On May 7, Windom formally dismissed the appeal as “untimely filed.”
Paula DiNardi says she remains an assault victim. But for all intents and purposes, the court record now reflects there was never actually an assault.
Reached Monday, McDowell said he couldn’t comment because the public intoxication case is still pending, but he noted the two charges carry “identical punishments, identical potential sentences, and the lady’s portion of it is also germane to the other charge that is pending.”
McDowell also said “everything that went on that night,” including the assault, would be presented at McSharry’s public intoxication appeal trial whenever trials are allowed to resume.
“That case is going to trigger whatever the judge decides to do on the [probation] revocation and the possible sentencing range is the exact same as if he had multiple charges out there, so we’re plowing forward on it,” McDowell said.
But for her part, DiNardi doesn’t feel justice was served. While she has already filed a separate civil lawsuit against McSharry, when she learned this week about the assault charge being dismissed, she suggested she may file one against the city, too.
“I don’t know what options I have at this point, but I was not represented properly and to my best interest and I’m not one to back down and I don’t intend on backing down,” she said.
When the case was in municipal court, DiNardi said McDowell “never returned my calls” and wouldn’t notify her when the case was delayed.
“Sometimes I would sit there for six hours and then find out that the case has been moved to a different day,” she said. “And Marcus McDowell never informed me that the case has been moved to a different day, so you know, Marcus McDowell is the problem here. He didn’t do his job, he didn’t represent me to the best of his ability and he was negligent.”
DiNardi claimed McSharry was allowed to walk free in spite of the 180-day jail sentence “because he has a business to tend to in Fairhope.”
“The whole problem here is people are not abiding by the law and doing the lawful thing or doing the moral and ethical thing,” she said. “They’re not doing right by others and that’s what makes me sad.”
DiNardi’s civil case is also pending a review by the Alabama Supreme Court, with her attorneys seeking to reverse several orders Stankoski entered in favor of McSharry without ever holding hearings. In the same case, Stankoski also allowed McSharry’s attorney, James Pittman, to subpoena privileged communications he believes exist between this newspaper and its alleged sources.
Lagniappe began reporting on the assault case and McSharry’s criminal history after another one of his attorneys, John Beck, sought to have the case dismissed based on alleged “politically motivated” interference by Fairhope Mayor Karin Wilson. Pittman’s subpoena seeks “any and all communications” between Lagniappe and public officials in Fairhope, other local media figures and attorneys.
DiNardi said McSharry’s attorneys are simply “grasping at straws.”
“For the record, I’m gonna tell you right now the mayor had nothing to do with anything,” she said. “I don’t know the mayor personally and she reached out to me afterward like 1,000 other people reached out to me to say, ‘if there’s anything I can do for you please let me know.’ We went on and exchanged some emails, but she never coerced me into pressing charges. I had already pressed charges a week before I ever spoke to her.”
DiNardi did not mention a motivation for the assault or any specific words she exchanged with McSharry, but said at the time, she was managing the tiki bar on the beach below the American Legion, where she increased sales from $100 to as much $10,000 per day.
“I was told I was killing downtown Fairhope and I had two bar owners tell me ‘I’ll do anything it takes to get you off that beach, you’re killing my business,’” she said. “So somebody told me that’s why he did it to begin with … we think it was business related.”
This original version of this story erroneously reported Stankoski’s verdict was appealed to the Alabama Supreme Court. The appeal was to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals, with Presiding Judge Mary Windom ordering its dismissal.
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