Three juveniles, a 17-year-old boy and two 16-year-old girls, were charged Wednesday in connection with a Nov. 5 incident at Portofino restaurant, Lexington police said.
After a review of evidence and consultation with the county attorney’s office, complaints were filed against the teens for misdemeanor theft, police said. Another complaint was filed against a 17-year-old girl for tampering with evidence, a felony, and receiving stolen property, a misdemeanor, police said.
An encounter between a group of teens and restaurant employees grew into a social media firestorm, a Nov. 12 downtown march by more than 100 protesters and a civil lawsuit against a restaurant manager.
The teens had entered Portofino on Main Street to charge their cellphones and use the restrooms, police said Wednesday. Restaurant employees suspected the teens of taking a jacket from a coatroom, and they confronted the group. Some teens then ran from the restaurant, and a restaurant employee chased after them.
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“It was determined that a jacket was taken from the restaurant and hid in a nearby area, attempting to prevent its discovery,” police said in a written statement released about 3:30 p.m. Wednesday. “Evidence, including video and witness interviews, did not support any other allegations or claims as to what happened that evening. Allegations of assault and use of racial slurs by the restaurant employee could not be corroborated. Additionally, one of the juveniles involved has recanted an initial statement from the night of the incident.”
No charges will be filed against a Portofino manager or any employee, police spokeswoman Brenna Angel said.
“We presented everything, all the allegations and claims that were made, and upon reviewing the evidence — digital evidence, physical evidence, independent eyewitnesses, everything that we had — led to the conclusion that these charges against the juveniles were appropriate and that there was nothing to support any kind of ... assault,” Angel said.
In a statement, restaurant owner Wayne Masterman thanked police for their “commitment to a full and thorough investigation.”
“We are satisfied with the results of the investigation, which show that the inflammatory false allegations on social media pertaining to Portofino were unsupported,” Masterman said. He said the restaurant’s “decades of operating an ethical and socially conscious business will continue. We look forward to continuing to serve our customers at the highest level of excellence.”
Richard Getty, the attorney representing restaurant manager Michael Robinson, said he was pleased that no charges will be filed against his client.
“We think that’s an appropriate decision on their part,” Getty said. Filing charges against the juveniles also was appropriate, he said.
Getty said he wants the entire investigative record of the case made available to the public, “because we believe that there are parts of that record that fully support” the decision for no charges to be brought against restaurant employees.
Meanwhile, no response has been filed to a civil suit brought by Abigail Gates, who alleged that a manager “physically attacked” her daughter “when he used his hands to savagely beat her in downtown Lexington.”
The lawsuit, filed Nov. 23 in Fayette Circuit Court, also alleged that Robinson attempted to take a backpack from the girl “in a harmful and/or unlawful offensive manner.”
The suit alleges that Robinson committed false imprisonment when he “with malice unlawfully and forcefully physically restrained” the girl “so that she was not free to leave.”
No immediate response was available from William L. Davis, the attorney who had filed the suit on behalf of Gates.