Article published September 09, 2010
Ex-Wauseon restaurateur acquitted of arson, fraud
'07 blaze destroyed his business, 7 others on block
By MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
WAUSEON - A former restaurant owner was acquitted Wednesday of setting two fires to his eatery, including the April, 2007, blaze that destroyed a block of downtown businesses and caused more than $2.6 million in damages.
"While the defendant had large financial obligations, the evidence is that he was able to meet his obligations and there is no evidence that he was anxious or distressed or troubled about paying his debts," he said.
The fire that began in the restaurant owned by Mr. Bryan and Mr. Maat spread to seven businesses on North Fulton Street and was ruled arson about two weeks later.
A county grand jury indicted Mr. Bryan in August, 2009, on three counts of aggravated arson, nine counts of arson, and two counts of insurance fraud.
In addition to a lack of a financial motive, Judge Wittenberg said that on the night of the fire the restaurant was extremely busy and Mr. Bryan had deposited the cash receipts in the safe instead of taking them home.
He also said that Mr. Bryan went to the restaurant because of a shortage of staff and that a shower party that had been scheduled for the following day would have generated several thousand dollars of business.
After the verdicts were pronounced, Mr. Bryan hugged his attorney, Jerry Phillips, and later embraced his wife and other family members who were present in the courtroom.
Many of the family, friends, and supporters of Mr. Bryan reacted with hugs and tears to the decision.
After leaving the courthouse, Mr. Bryan said he didn't want to discuss the verdicts.
Mr. Phillips said that he was relieved for his client and his family. "This was a long ordeal and a lot of time under the gun. There were a lot of people blaming him for something the court has found that he is not responsible," he said.
Assistant Fulton County Prosecutor Paul Kennedy left the courtroom immediately after the verdicts. He could not be reached for comment.
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||Truth in Justice