Crafaik's woe: Bistro owner faces charges

A prominent Bistro owner and former candidate for City Council has been charged with assault following an incident in which he allegedly struck and bit his employer.

According to friends, John Michael Crafaik III, an owner of Michael's Bistro, was considering a career change and had been working for Cool Response Refrigeration, a heating and cooling company owned by Robin Joslin.

"He hadn't worked in the restaurant for a couple of years," says fellow Bistro owner Chuck Adcock.

By mid-October, Crafaik's new job situation had soured. While Joslin declined comment for the story, his complaint in the court file reveals that on October 20 he was waiting at the company's West Main Street warehouse to terminate Crafaik's employment.

"He was told not to enter the building," Joslin wrote. "He pushed me aside. When I stopped him, he threw a cup of coffee in my face and struck me. I held him down while he bit my arm until police arrived."

Following his arrest, Crafaik was charged with assault and battery, a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by a $2,500 fine and up to 12 months in jail.

Released on $1,500 bond and under a court order to stay away from Joslin's home and office, Crafaik visited Joslin's warehouse, which shares a parking lot with Quality Community Council, a nonprofit agency that employs a witness to the alleged assault. At 5pm on Friday, October 28, according to court records, Crafaik attempted to locate that witness.

On October 31, assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Claude Worrell wrote a letter to General District Court Judge Robert Downer asking him to revoke Crafaik's bond based on that violation. Worrell added that the Quality Council staff described Crafaik as "acting oddly, as if under the influence of some drug."

Among the conditions the court originally placed on his release was that Crafaik enter Williamsburg Place, a substance-abuse rehab center in Williamsburg, and reside with his brother, Christopher Crafaik, upon his release from treatment.

However, Crafaik's lawyer, Fran Lawrence, had successfully appealed the treatment requirement last week, despite Crafaik's four alleged calls to Joslin later on October 20 that violated the conditions of his bond.

On the afternoon of October 31, Crafaik turned himself in and spent Halloween night in the Albemarle Charlottesville Regional Jail. On the morning of November 1, an unshaven Crafaik, shackled and accompanied in court by his mother, wife, and brother, agreed to the original bond terms and was to commence treatment immediately upon his release.

The alleged incidents have shocked many of Crafaik's longtime associates who recall a vibrant thinker whose libertarian philosophies of less government motivated his Republican runs for City Council in 1996 and 1998.

"He's one of my best friends," says Bistro partner Adcock, who's worked with Crafaik for a decade and became his business partner five years ago. "He's a great person to deal with. I can't imagine him getting in this kind of situation. It doesn't make sense."

Like Crafaik, Eric Strzepek believes so strongly in libertarian principles that he faced off as an independent against Donal Day, Ed Robb, and the late Emily Couric in the celebrated 1995 race for the Virginia Senate.

Calling Crafaik his "best friend," Strzepek, who has known Crafaik since eighth grade, adds, "He cares a lot about the community. He's done a lot of charitable stuff with the restaurant– stuff he doesn't talk about a lot."

Even the man who was embroiled in intra-party controversy with Crafaik over five years ago finds himself "absolutely shocked" by the current situation.

In March 2000, Dale McGlothlin was chair of the Charlottesville Republican Party until Crafaik and Strzepek rounded up new members and eventually wrested control from him. Following the meeting at which Crafaik's victory was announced, he and McGlothlin dined separately at Mono Loco restaurant on Water Street. What happened next made local news.

According to Tyler Sewell, who was dining with McGlothlin that night, Crafaik approached McGlothlin's table, and an argument ensued. Sewell says Crafaik suddenly screamed at him, "You're my witness," to which Sewell says he responded, "witness to what?"

The next day, Crafaik pressed charges against McGlothlin alleging McGlothlin had struck him during the course of the argument.

"It was irrational behavior then," says McGlothlin, now a lobbyist in Washington, D.C. "Even his girlfriend testified that she saw the whole thing, and nothing happened."

McGlothlin, cleared of all charges, says he chalked it up to "immaturity" and, rather than press charges of his own against Crafaik, decided to "let it go."

Sewell calls Crafaik's political views at the time "extreme," but adds that Crafaik's problems with McGlothlin seemed isolated.

"He was so upset at Dale," says Sewell, "but he seemed like such a nice guy, too."

Crafaik's upcoming trial, initially scheduled for November 28, will likely be postponed so that Crafaik can finish treatment. Worrell declines comment on the ongoing case, but Lawrence says he's "confident the charges will be dismissed."

As for Crafaik's side of the story, Lawrence declines to give specifics, calling the situation a "very personal matter."

"Unfortunately," he adds, "events came at a time when Mr. Crafaik was experiencing other stresses completely unrelated to Mr. Joslin."

John Michael Crafaik III