LAKE GEORGE — The operator of the last Howard Johnson’s restaurant in the country is due back in court next month to face sex-related charges, and his lawyer said this week that he will fight the “false” charges against him.
Jonathan L. LaRock has pleaded not guilty to a host of charges filed in October that accuse him of having sexual contact and unwanted physical contact with teens and women who worked for him at the Route 9 eatery in recent years.
His lawyer, Tucker Stanclift, said his client plans to contest the charges, and has maintained they are false.
“He denies the allegations entirely,” Stanclift said.
Asked why so many girls and women came forward to accuse LaRock, Stanclift replied, “I have my theories, but I’m not at liberty to discuss them.”
Stanclift said the case has been adjourned in recent months as the Warren County District Attorney’s Office reviews the evidence against his client.
“As in any case, they (the allegations) need to be substantiated with proof, and I haven’t seen any proof yet,” he said.
LaRock faces felony sexual abuse, two misdemeanor counts of unlawful imprisonment and four misdemeanor charges of endangering the welfare of a child for alleged actions with employees ages 14 to 43 since June 2016. The felony charge accuses him of forcing sexual contact on a young woman who worked for him.
The police investigation began with a 17-year-old former employee taking her complaints of inappropriate contact by LaRock to social media.
Sworn written statements that the workers gave Warren County sheriff’s officers include allegations he grabbed a young woman’s breasts, rubbed his crotch against her buttocks until she pulled away, and told her, “You have to kiss me if you want to get paid.”
Others alleged he touched their buttocks, offered them drugs and alcohol and had them look at pornography on his cellphone.
Police said at the time of LaRock’s arrest he told officers the physical contact was “his way of joking” with his workers.
Warren County sheriff’s Lt. Steve Stockdale said his agency’s investigators completed their investigation and the case was turned over to the Warren County District Attorney’s Office for review and possible grand jury action.
In all, police interviewed 15 different current or former employees. Stockdale said investigators were also working through services that assisted foreign workers who might have been employed there over the summer, after some of the alleged victims told police they witnessed him propositioning foreign workers.
“(Investigator Chris) Hatin has been going through Student Connection to see if he can locate anyone who had any concerns,” he said.
LaRock, 65, reopened the restaurant after his release from jail, but it was unclear whether it remained in business as of Thursday or Friday. The parking lot has been plowed, but no one was there Thursday morning, and no one answered the phone numbers listed for the business.
LaRock is free on bail and is scheduled to return to Lake George Town Court on Jan. 18.