Brighton bar owner faces charges of misleading police
It was late in the night during Memorial Day weekend. When a worker at a Brighton bar and pizza shop found an unconscious man at the bottom of a flight of stairs, the owner instructed his staff to move the man to a parking lot and call 911, prosecutors allege.
Employees at Roggie’s Brew and Grille hauled the underage patron from the basement bar but never called 911, prosecutors said Wednesday. Now, bar owner John Rogaris is accused of stonewalling a police investigation into how a 20-year-old student from Ireland sustained a life-threatening head injury at the establishment on May 23.
Investigators believe the man was injured when he fell down the stairs, said Jake Wark, a spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley.
On Wednesday, the bar owner appeared in Suffolk Superior Court, where he pleaded not guilty to withholding evidence during the course of a criminal investigation, witness intimidation, and two counts of misleading an investigator.
A family lawyer identified the victim as Dylan Fitzgibbon, a student at University College Cork in Ireland, who has been in Boston since March to do an internship in business information systems.
“We want to have answers,” said attorney Bill Dailey, as he stood with Fitzgibbon and his parents outside the court. Fitzgibbon, who recently turned 21, wore a helmet that Dailey said was needed to protect the student’s head.
“We want this question answered: How can a person do this to another person and essentially just leave them for dead?” Dailey said.
Defense attorney Alan Rose Jr. said Rogaris, who lists addresses in New York and Weston and who was released on his own recognizance, has a “spotless record.”
“The allegations in the indictment are just that. They’re allegations. They’re proof of nothing,” Rose said.
Authorities said a passerby called 911 after finding a man on the ground unconscious outside the bar on Chestnut Hill Avenue about 2:45 a.m. May 23. The man was taken to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center to be treated for serious head injuries, and detectives from the homicide unit went to the bar to ask about surveillance video, a police report said.
Rogaris allegedly said the video surveillance system was shorting out, had been removed, and there was nothing to see, said Assistant District Attorney David Bradley.
On June 3, Rogaris told a detective in an e-mail that the bar’s equipment “shows video, but does not record just as we had informed you.”
The same day, detectives recovered the bar’s DVR surveillance machines, which showed two people carrying an unconscious person through a back door at 2:34 a.m., Bradley said. The video also showed Rogaris at the back of the DVR machines manipulating wires, but the DVR machine did not capture what happened inside the bar, Bradley said.
On June 12, Rogaris allegedly visited a witness in the case and promised that he would take care of him financially if he “took the fall for him,” Bradley said.
“The evidence suggests a specific plan to cover up a young man’s grievous injuries by dumping him outside and lying to police,” Conley said in a statement. “These are extremely serious charges. The victim and his family are lucky he’s alive.”
Dailey said Fitzgibbon sustained a “horrible injury” to his head and neck, and plans to undergo surgery.
The bar is closed, according to records at the Boston Licensing Board.
On June 11, an attorney for Roggie’s 356 Mix Inc., which holds the liquor license for the bar, asked the board not to schedule a hearing on the incident.
“My client has received numerous conflicting stories from his staff as to what occurred,” wrote attorney Stephen V. Miller. “My client is extremely upset and dismayed by the actions of some of his staff.” Miller declined to comment on the letter.
Roggie’s has faced sanctions in the past for serving minors and not checking identification, records show. And on June 18, the city’s licensing board issued a warning to Roggie’s after it found that the bar was serving patrons complimentary beer as part of a Coors Light promotion, records show.