Owner of last free-standing Howard Johnson's pleads not guilty to sexually abusing staff

May 02, 2018 06:25 PM

LAKE GEORGE - He's been running the last free-standing Howard Johnson's restaurant in the country, but Jonathan LaRock sits before a judge Wednesday, accused of sexually abusing and fondling girls and women who worked for him at his Lake George restaurant.

He's charged with eight counts-- felony sex abuse, forcible touching, unlawful imprisonment, endangering the welfare of a child and harassment.

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A review of LaRock's court file reveals what police say is a pattern of abusing and fondling staff, offering drugs and alcohol, showing them porn, and telling them they wouldn't get paid unless they kissed him.

The file contains a statement from an 18-year-old who said LaRock grabbed her breasts, kissed her neck and rubbed his groin against her. It's that incident that police say led to the felony sex abuse charge.

Tucker Stanclift, LaRock's attorney, says his client looks forward to clearing his name. "The crime that they allege requires some evidence of forcible compulsion, which from my understanding, even the accusations don't amount to that level," said Stanclift.

One of the alleged victims, a 14-year-old girl who worked here for LaRock told police that he'd always tried to brush his hand on her butt and that he'd use his cellphone to try to take pictures of her and other girls without them knowing.

The charges relate to five alleged victims, but police say there are 15 girls and women who claim inappropriate contact.

"Fifteen ladies and young women whose common denominator is one person. So we have to look very seriously at what would be the motivation to make up a story like that and we don't think anybody's making anything up," said Lt. Steve Stockdale of the Warren County Sheriff's Office.

The restaurant was closed Wednesday afternoon and there were "help wanted" signs hanging from doors and windows.

When and if it opens, you won't find Stockdale eating there.

"I encourage everybody to use caution. I know where I'm not going to be eating lunch."

Judge John Hall continued to allow LaRock to be free after posting $30,000 bond in October.

If convicted of the top count, LaRock, who lives in Moreau, faces a maximum sentence of seven years in prison.


Mark Mulholland

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