A former pizza shop operator was cleared of criminal charges in connection with a dispute he had over leasing the former Rainbow Restaurant in Johnstown for a new business.
Johnstown City Court Judge Thomas Walsh on Tuesday dismissed five misdemeanor charges against George Tirse. He had faced multiple counts of offering a false instrument for filing, criminal possession of a forged instrument and forgery, all Class A misdemeanors.
Tirse’s attorney, Mark Sacco, said Walsh ruled in favor of his client’s motion for dismissal. “We were getting ready for trial and the judge dismissed the case. We made a motion that this was a civil case and not a criminal case,” he said.
Sacco argued that the case was essentially a landlord/tenant dispute and that the “landlord tried to leverage Tirse by filing criminal charges. It snowballed and got to that point.”
Tirse had initially been charged with felony forgery, accused of signing the name of Joseph Andrews, the owner of the former Rainbow Restaurant, on a lease to occupy the site for a new business. The agreement was with Andrews’ company, Mayflower.
A special prosecutor out of the Saratoga County District Attorney’s Office later reduced the felony charge to five misdemeanors. The special prosecutor took the case because Andrews is acquainted with Fulton County District Attorney Louise Sira’s office.
State police in Mayfield arrested Tirse in January on the felony charge. He said he has since filed a lawsuit alleging false arrest by the state trooper.
Tirse was attempting to open a pizza business in the former Rainbow Restaurant more than a year ago. Just days before he was supposed to open his business, Anthony’s Brick Oven, at 16 E. Main St., Andrews allegedly locked him out. Andrews alleges Tirse put his equipment inside 16 E. Main St. without his knowledge or permission and never paid rent for the property.
Both men have civil suits against each other pending in State Supreme Court in Fulton County. Tirse is seeking $1 million in damages for fraud, misrepresentation, retaliatory eviction, breach of contract and conversion in his civil suit. Andrews and his company, Mayflower, are seeking $3 million in punitive damages.
Andrews was not available for comment for this story.