Judge rejects no-contest plea for The Page owners
BRENTWOOD — A judge refused to accept a no-contest plea deal on Monday for a Portsmouth nightspot where a man was fatally beaten in April.
Owners of The Page Restaurant were prepared to move forward with a no-contest plea on charges alleging an employee served alcohol on a basement-level dance floor where a bar patron allegedly leveled fatal blows to 24-year-old Joshua Krantz of Dover by punching him in the head.
But Judge N. William Delker told parties in the case that he would not accept what’s known as a “nolo” plea and set a Nov. 12 hearing date so attorneys can work out a new plea agreement.
The decision comes as The Page’s corporation, New Adventures LLC, prepares to liquidate much, if not all, of its assets inside the downtown restaurant.
A public auction is scheduled for 11 a.m. today at the site of the former nightspot at 172 Hanover St. in Portsmouth. The auction — being operated by J. Moore Auctioneers — seeks to liquidate furniture, several large screen televisions, kitchen equipment, sports memorabilia and other assets in the building.
In court, New Adventure Entertainment LLC faces upward of $100,000 in fines on charges that on April 5 the business served alcohol in an area where no alcohol was allowed, fueling the altercation that allegedly followed.
Zachary O’Neill, 24, of Dover, is charged with manslaughter and first-degree assault in the alleged attack on Krantz that night.
O’Neill is expected to go on trial in Rockingham County Superior Court early next year.
O’Neill allegedly went after Krantz because he was angry about having a drink spilled on him earlier in the night, police said. Friends brought Krantz home after the altercation, and he later died from his injuries, according to police.
Owners of The Page were offered a plea deal by prosecutors earlier in the year that would have required them to plead guilty to two charges and pay a $75,000 fine, according to court records.
Instead, their lawyer, Matthew Stachowske, asked a judge to dismiss the case, arguing that prosecutors had misinterpreted the law and weren’t allowed to bring criminal charges.
Stachowske suggested the corporation could only face administrative penalties by the state’s Liquor Commission.
But Delker disagreed, concluding that jurors could determine whether the area of the dance floor was an area that the state Liquor Commission approved for serving alcohol.
Owners of The Page agreed to shutter their business on June 21 as part of an agreement with the City of Portsmouth.
Only the corporation is charged in the criminal case, not the individual owners, according to the indictments.