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Hagerstown restaurant owner fined for omitting info on liquor license application

John Freeland, co-owner of the SPIN restaurant and nightclub, asked to be taken off of the license

November 14, 2012|By DAN DEARTH | dan.dearth@herald-mail.com

Washington County liquor officials on Wednesday imposed a $2,500 fine against a Hagerstown restaurant owner for failing to disclose his criminal past on a liquor license application.

The Board of License Commissioners for Washington County, known as the liquor board, levied the fine against John Freeland, co-owner of the SPIN restaurant and nightclub at 43 S. Potomac St., during a hearing at the liquor board offices on West Washington Street in Hagerstown.

Charles Mades, liquor board treasurer, said the matter also would be turned over to legal authorities.

“I think it has to go one step further ... I think a copy of these proceedings should be sent to the (Washington County) State’s Attorneys Office (for review) of the criminal charge of perjury,” Mades said.

The liquor board said an FBI background check on Freeland showed that he had been convicted of felonies and misdemeanors in Florida in the 1990s.

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Liquor licensees in Maryland are not permitted to have felonies on their records and must swear to that when they fill out an application for a liquor license. After an application is completed, it is sent to the FBI for verification.

The liquor board did not release Freeland’s FBI background check to the media, but Mades said during the hearing that some of the charges against Freeland included resisting arrest, grand theft and obstruction without violence.

When asked if he knew why he was summoned to appear before the liquor board, Freeland said, “I don’t even know what it’s about. I think it has to do with the middle initial because there was a boo-boo.”

Robert Everhart, liquor board chairman, informed Freeland otherwise.

“No,” Everhart said. “It has to do with some issues you had as a person as far as perjury — for what you said you didn’t do or did do when we asked you about whether you had felonies or no felonies.”

Freeland initially said he received an FBI check on his background that was clear, then admitted to acquiring some criminal charges when he was “hanging out with a bad crowd.”

He said that to his knowledge, those charges had been expunged.

“This stuff is not supposed to be on my records anymore,” Freeland said.

Freeland asked the board to take him off SPIN’s liquor license.

The liquor board agreed, saying the two people who already were on the license with Freeland — co-owner Robert Hagerman and resident agent Renee Levin — would be sufficient for the business to continue serving alcohol.

Freeland said his involvement with SPIN was mostly financial.

“I’m the money, that’s pretty much it,” he said. “I don’t even come to town.”

Freeland said he wouldn’t be able to pay the $2,500 fine, which he has 30 days to appeal at Washington County Circuit Court.

“We definitely don’t have the money” Freeland said.

Hagerman said he didn’t know about Freeland’s past, and thanked the three-member liquor board for not suspending SPIN’s liquor license.

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