Restaurant owner sentenced for sexual harassment of staff

Restaurant owner sentenced for sexual harassment of staff

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QUEENSBURY — The Lake George restaurant operator who routinely propositioned and sexually harassed his female employees for years was sent to Warren County Jail on Wednesday, after hearing from one of his victims.

Jonathan L. LaRock had no statement after he heard from a young woman who was among seven women and girls based on whose allegations of fondling and sex-themed conversations he was charged. His lawyer, Tucker Stanclift, said he was “affected” after hearing the impact that his actions had on her, and couldn’t address the judge because of it.

Warren County Judge John Hall sentenced him to 6 months in Warren County Jail and 6 years on probation, after the young woman told of an “attack” she suffered at LaRock’s hands. (Her name is being withheld because The Post-Star does not identify sex crime victims.)

She told the judge she quit her job afterward and had “panic attacks and nightmares” for months. When she saw another victim post on social media about what she endured, she came forward to police as well.

“I know now, after all of this, I did nothing wrong,” she told Hall. “I couldn’t have stopped it, but I am strong enough to overcome this and will.”

Stanclift said LaRock was “remorseful for the position he put” the victims in, and wanted to serve his time and be a productive member of society.

LaRock, who operates the Howard Johnson’s eatery on Route 9, pleaded guilty Sept. 26 to misdemeanor counts of forcible touching and unlawful imprisonment, satisfying an eight-count indictment that was brought on behalf of five alleged victims and included a felony charge of sexual abuse.

The 65-year-old pleaded guilty to charges that he fondled an 18-year-old woman who worked for him and held a 14-year-old against her will, both incidents happening at the Howard Johnson’s restaurant on Route 9 in Lake George last year.

LaRock was arrested in October 2017, after an investigation by the Warren County Sheriff’s Office that began when a 17-year-old former employee of his lambasted him on social media and accused him of asking her for nude photos, repeatedly touching her hips and stomach and telling her she was sexy.

In all, police said they were contacted by 15 former employees of LaRock’s, ages 14 to 43, before his arrest, with many of them telling of inappropriate contact that dated back years.

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.

LaRock will serve 4 months in jail with credit for “good time.” He will have to register as a sex offender when he is released from jail, but there is no prohibition for continuing to operate the restaurant, which is believed to be the last of the iconic Howard Johnson’s chain remaining in operation in the U.S. He has continued to operate the restaurant since his arrest.

Stanclift said it was unclear whether he would do so after he is released from jail.

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