QUEENSBURY — The former Lake George restaurant operator who is serving a jail term for sex-related convictions involving young female employees is claiming he did not commit the offenses to which he pleaded guilty as a judge seeks to classify him as a sex offender.
Jonathan L. LaRock was in Warren County Court for a hearing Wednesday at which he was supposed to learn what level sex offender classification he will receive. He is serving a six-month jail sentence for guilty pleas to misdemeanor counts of forcible touching and unlawful imprisonment as part of a plea deal for accusations of inappropriate contact with five employees.
But a strongly worded, five-page letter he sent to Judge John Hall stalled that process, as LaRock claimed that he was “set up” by the women and girls who accused him of inappropriate contact at the Howard Johnson’s restaurant he ran in Lake George.
He claimed his accusers made “false statements,” and that he physically could not have done some of the acts of which he was accused because of illness and physical limitations.
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He wrote that the girls would have asked for help had he fondled or grabbed them in the workplace, as they claimed.
“I was put in jail under false statements,” he wrote.
He said that he pleaded guilty under the advice of his lawyer, but wanted the judge to know the accusations were false as he considered his sex offender classification. He asked that Hall deem him a level “0” offender, which doesn’t exist under state law.
Hall had him brought into court to determine whether he was seeking to withdraw his guilty plea. He stopped short of asking for that, as his lawyer, Tucker Stanclift, requested that Hall “ignore” the letter, saying he had nothing to do with it.
But Hall said that the letter created a number of legal questions, including whether LaRock’s guilty pleas should have been entered and how his newfound claims of innocence should affect his classification as a sex offender.
“It’s kind of a difficult legal matter,” Hall told him. “I certainly don’t want someone pleading guilty to something they didn’t do.”
Whether a sex offender has accepted responsibility for his crimes is factored into the process of determining whether a sex offender’s chances of re-offending are deemed Level 1, 2 or 3. The level determines how often they have to register, and whether they are listed on the public sex offender registry.
Warren County Assistant District Attorney Rebecca Nealon asked that Hall take the letter into consideration as confirmation that LaRock was not accepting responsibility for his crimes.
“If you don’t accept you have a problem, you can’t get the appropriate treatment,” she said.
The matter was adjourned without date pending an attorney conference.
LaRock, 66, of Moreau, is scheduled to be released from Warren County Jail on Feb. 25, and his sex offender classification needs to be completed before his release. Stanclift said he had concerns the issue he has raised could stall his release from jail.
He is to spend 6 years on probation after his release. His plea deal for charges that he fondled an 18-year-old woman who worked for him and held a 14-year-old against her will satisfied an eight-count indictment that included a felony sexual abuse charge and seven misdemeanors.
In all, police said they heard from 15 female employees who alleged LaRock had inappropriate contact or sex-themed conversations with them, ranging in age from 14 to 43.