Crafaik acquitted: Lawyer calls biting self-defense

Less than two months after Michael's Bistro founder Michael Crafaik was arrested following an incident in which he allegedly bit his new employer, Robin Joslin, a Charlottesville District Court judge has acquitted Crafaik of misdemeanor assault and battery and contempt of court.

"He found Michael not guilty because the initial physical contact was initiated by Mr. Joslin under circumstances where he shouldn't have done that," says Crafaik's attorney, William Tanner, of Judge Robert Downer's December 12 decision.

The tussle in question took place October 24 at Joslin's West Main Street warehouse.

Friends explain that Crafaik had been considering a career change to something other than the restaurant business and had recently begun working for Joslin, owner of Cool Response Refrigeration. But by mid-October, the relationship had cooled.

Though both Crafaik and Joslin decline comment for this story, Joslin's original complaint reveals that on October 20, he was waiting at the warehouse to terminate Crafaik's employment.

When Crafaik arrived, "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– a two-time Republican city council candidate in the mid-1990s– was charged with assault and battery, a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by a $2,500 fine and up to 12 months in jail.

Friends expressed shock.

"He's a great person to deal with," said his Bistro partner Chuck Adcock. "I can't imagine him getting in this kind of situation. It doesn't make sense."

"He cares a lot about the community," said Eric Strzepek who, like Crafaik, is a libertarian. "He's done a lot of charitable stuff with the restaurant– stuff he doesn't talk about a lot."

Despite his friends' disbelief, Crafaik's situation worsened following his arrest.

After breaking the condition of his bond– which included a court order to stay away from Joslin's home and office– Crafaik allegedly visited Joslin's warehouse in an attempt to locate a witness to the altercation.

On October 31, Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Claude Worrell wrote a letter to Judge Downer asking him to revoke Crafaik's bond based on that violation. Worrell added that employees of the Quality Council staff, which shares a parking lot with Cool Response, described Crafaik as "acting oddly, as if under the influence of some drug."

That afternoon, 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 (but not his father, John Crafaik, owner of Littlejohn's Deli), agreed to the original bond terms and was to begin a month-long stay at Williamsburg Place, a substance abuse treatment center.

Crafaik checked in, says Tanner, but before the month was up, he checked out of his own accord.

"It turned out that the facility was not equipped to deal with the various issues Michael was bringing to the table at the time," says Tanner, "emphatically" stressing that Crafaik does not have a substance abuse problem.

With nearly two weeks before the scheduled December 9 hearing, however, Crafaik– his leaving an apparent violation of the court order– was sent back to jail, this time for 11 days.

On Friday, December 9, Downer released Crafaik from jail on bond, and at the rescheduled hearing three days later dismissed the charges.

Crafaik still faces felony larceny charges in Nelson County, also filed by Joslin, but Tanner says he's confident Joslin's claim that Crafaik stole a truck will also be dismissed. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for January 18 in Nelson County General District Court.

Nelson County Commonwealth's Attorney Phillip Payne did not immediately return The Hook's call for comment about the case.

As for the dismissal of the Charlottesville charges, Worrell declines comment, but Crafaik's friends say they're relieved– and not surprised.

"I figured he would be found not guilty once the facts of the case actually got out," says Strzepek, "and I'm very happy about the outcome."

John Michael Crafaik III