ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) - Three former Plaza 8 Theater employees and one other individual were charged Tuesday with misdemeanor property damage to the theater that closed in early March.
Former Plaza 8 manager Joshua Hall, 35, former theater co-manager Buck Wilson, 23, and former employee Michael Wilson, 22, each were charged with a Class B misdemeanor of second-degree property damage of Plaza 8. A fourth defendant, Edward Raymond Hudson, 23, also was charged with a Class B misdemeanor of second-degree property damage for the same incident, according to court documents.
On March 3, Plaza 8, located at 2219 N. Belt Highway, sustained major damage throughout the interior of the business, including damage to the lobby, bathrooms, hallways and concession areas.
Probable cause statements, submitted by Detective Gregg Lewis with the St. Joseph Police Department, reported that each defendant took â€śan active role in committing the property damage and allowed others to assist in damaging the property.â€ť Damage estimates were not known at the time of the filing.
Police initially responded to the theater on March 4, two days after Plaza 8 permanently closed. The complainant at the time, Mr. Hall, reported a burglary, stating that he received a call from another employee about the damage and arrived to see the theater trashed. Mr. Hall was arrested that day on suspicion of filing a false police report and property damage, but he was released the following day with no charges filed.
Buchanan County Prosecuting Attorney Dwight Scroggins said he filed misdemeanor charges because the only value he could put on the damage was the $1,500 for cleanup costs.
â€śIâ€™ve been asking for about a month for someone to give me an estimate of the damage, because if you have a building that is going to be torn down and there was nothing to be salvaged, thatâ€™s a significantly different case than if someone was going to sell property for less because of the damage,â€ť he said. â€śI would absolutely be willing to take another look at the evidence if anyone can get me an actual damage estimate that has documented proof.â€ť
Grocery store chain Price Chopper is scheduled to locate in St. Joseph at the general site of Plaza 8, said Clint Thompson, director of Planning & Community Development for the city. Adam Stein, a commercial Realtor with Prudential Summers and representative of Richard Durwood, the theaterâ€™s owner, told the News-Press the grocery store plans to close on the purchase of the building in May, despite the damage.
Butch Rigby, Screenland owner and property management partner with Plaza 8 LLC said the theater was supposed to be closed because of snowfall on its final Sunday of operations. However, the theater offered free popcorn, drinks and snacks to movie-goers with the entry of a movie. It was unclear if guests were charged for movie tickets, he added.
â€ś(Mr. Hall) was the one who recommended that we not open the theater, because of the amount of snow, so we had prepared for that contingency,â€ť Mr. Rigby said. â€ś(Mr. Hall) had absolutely no authority for any free days, no authority to give away merchandise, stock, and he certainly had no authority to show movies for free.â€ť
Mr. Rigby estimated the value of the damage at more than $20,000, according to pending insurance adjustments. He said he will continue to work on estimates for the potential amendment of misdemeanor charges.
Mr. Hall was issued a criminal summons and ordered to appear in court May 5.
No other information on summonses was available Tuesday afternoon. However, Buck Wilson said he ultimately regretted the way the theater closed.
â€śPlaza was the best year of my life, and that was the wrong way to end it. We were just so emotionally charged with the way the closing was handled,â€ť he said. â€śPlaza taught me an unquantifiable amount about a whole array of things and I suppose that was the final lesson.â€ť
If convicted of a Class B misdemeanor, each defendant faces a maximum of six months in jail and a fine of up to $500.