Police have charged a Federal Hill restaurant owner with rape after a patron said he sexually assaulted her in a bathroom there on New Year's Eve.
Matthew Lasinski, 29, was taken into custody on New Year's Day and has been charged with second-degree rape, fourth-degree sex offense, and assault charges in connection with an incident that allegedly occurred after midnight in Blue Agave Restaurante in the 1000 block of Light St., according to police spokesman Vernon Davis.
Court records show he was ordered held without bond by a District Court commissioner.
Co-owner Brian Acquavella, who along with Lasinski took over the restaurant about nine months ago, told The Sun that he had reviewed camera footage from the restaurant and "after looking at everything that occurred, it doesn't seem like it's even feasible that the accusations are credible at all." Asked if he believed Lasinski would be cleared, he said, "Absolutely."
According to police, the victim told police she had an argument with her boyfriend and left her apartment in search of something to eat. She ended up at Blue Agave, where the kitchen was closed, but she ended up having several drinks.
She told police that while in the bathroom, a man later identified as Lasinski forcibly sexually assaulted her. She said another patron entered the bathroom and he stopped, and that patron put her in a cab and told her to drive to the hospital.
She reported that assault to police at 7 a.m., according to Davis, who said police have spoken to several witnesses.
On Wednesday night, on Blue Agave's Facebook page, someone posted a statement saying "one of our team members has become the victim of the worst injustice I've seen in my lifetime."
"We have video, as well as witnesses (unaffiliated to our team) that directly contradict the accuser’s allegations, yet he's still charged," the post read. "What happened to innocent until proven guilty? Hopefully his innocence is proven before the lies ruin us."
Lasinski is part of a management team that took over Blue Agave after previously working for Mackey's Bayside in Ocean City, according to a write-up in the Federal Hill neighborhood newsletter. The owner of Mackey's said in an e-mail that Lasinski was a bartender for 10 years.
In Washington DC, the police chief recently shut down a popular jazz club for 96 hours after a woman reported being sexually assaulted in the bar after an unsanctioned after-hours club. Chief Cathy Lanier used the power 15 times last year.
Baltimore Liqour Board chairman Steve Fogleman said city police have the ability to close an establishment for health and safety reasons, but not for more than 48 hours. He said the liquor board will conduct an investigation of the allegations at Blue Agave and could have a hearing as soon as three weeks from now, though sometimes the board waits until the charges have been adjudicated.