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Restaurateur Not Guilty in Having Food Critic/Blogger Beaten Up by Professional MMA Fighter

Steve Barnes, Timothy Rankins
Steve Barnes, Timothy Rankins
Photos: Times Union and Times Union

Timothy Rankins, an Albany, NY restaurant and bar owner, was acquitted by a jury Thursday on a charge that he hired a professional mixed martial arts fighter to beat up Times Union restaurant critic and blogger Steve Barnes back in October 2008. (Here's Barnes' blog post documenting getting beaten up.)

The allegations were that Rankins was unhappy about what Barnes had written on his blog Table Hopping, specifically about the suspension of his bar's liquor license and a police raid for underage drinking — what Barnes called "truthful journalism" — and then hired two guys to beat him up. (Barnes also criticized Rankins' decision to hold bikini contests at his Envy Lounge, calling it "one of the tackiest decisions I’ve ever seen from a place with superb food.") So, uh, be careful what you blog about?

And no one ended up serving any time:

Two brothers from Troy, Jason and Gerald Spiegel, a mixed martial arts fighter, admitted assaulting Barnes and Carr in the parking lot of Creo Restaurant. Jason Spiegel pleaded guilty to an assault charge and did not serve any jail time. Gerald Spiegel's criminal case was thrown out by a Guilderland town justice for what the judge said were procedural missteps by prosecutors.

Jason Spiegel testified he took part in the attack because his brother said they would receive "free drinks" at Rankins' downtown bar, Envy Lounge. Gerald Spiegel said the attack was his idea and that Rankins, his friend, had not asked him to do it, as prosecutors alleged. The assault charges against Gerald Spiegel were thrown out in March. Spiegel, incidentally, has an MMA record of 14-32 -1.

Also, "Prosecutors called two former chefs employed by Rankins to testify" who "both alleged Rankins made threats against Barnes during staff meetings." But there was "no direct proof that Rankins solicited the attack."

Rankins, however, is maybe still in a lot of trouble: "He is awaiting sentencing on a second criminal case for his guilty plea to a felony count of first-degree offering a false instrument for filing, related to charges he failed to pay more than $191,000 in sales taxes from restaurant proceeds."

Barnes hit up his blog yesterday and wrote "I'm disappointed in the outcome but understand and respect the jury's verdict." He "may say more at some point."

· Albany bar owner found not guilty [Times Union]
· Assault Charges Thrown out in Food Critic Beat-Up Case [-E-]
· All Crime Coverage on Eater [-E-]

Envy Restaurant and Lounge

55 North Pearl Street Albany, NY 12207