The Charlottesville Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office has dropped its case against a local restaurateur and event planner who faced felony abduction and strangulation charges after the prosecution’s main witness, the alleged victim in the case, failed to show up for a jury trial last week.
Jean-Francois Legault, c0-owner of catering and event outfit Glass Haus Kitchen and former owner of the now-shuttered X Lounge, was charged after former customer Reginald L. “Reggie” Wells accused Legault of putting him in a chokehold during a late-night dispute last August over a bounced check.
Legault previously pleaded guilty to embezzling from another local event company, and was convicted of misdemeanor assault in 2011, but that conviction was amended to disorderly conduct on appeal.
Prosecutor Elizabeth Killeen said due to Wells’ absence, she now won’t prosecute the latest charge, despite having been ready to proceed with the case. Wells had asked for an exemption for medical reasons, but a doctor’s note ultimately gave her no reason to grant his request, she said. Photos and posts on Wells’ Facebook and Twitter feeds appeared to show him vacationing on the Outer Banks.
Wells said he chose not to show up after learning that the felony charges against Legault had been reduced to misdemeanor assault charges, and said the photos were posted after he’d returned to Charlottesville.
“Going into this, it was supposed to be a felony,” Wells said. “I felt, like, seriously? I felt like I’d be wasting my time.” He said he’s still interested in pressing charges for unnamed other offenses.
Legault said he’s “evaluating all possible legal recourse” in response to what he felt were baseless accusations that led to an expensive, year-long legal battle.
“This is what he held out for, and he didn’t show,” Legault said of Wells. “He must not have very good confidence in his story.”