Carty Finkbeiner's claim that he didn't assault restaurateur John Skiadas in a confrontation four years ago at the Erie Street Market was bolstered yesterday by the testimony of two women who witnessed the incident.
Testifying in Lucas County Common Pleas Court in the trial for the civil lawsuit against Mr. Finkbeiner, Susan Hurrell and Sandra Genzman said they saw the former mayor yelling and waving his finger at Mr. Skiadas, owner of Pepe's Mexican Restaurant & Cantina in West Toledo.
But the women, both of Oak Harbor, Ohio, said Mr. Finkbeiner didn't touch Mr. Skiadas in the five minutes they watched the confrontation from the lobby of the city-owned market.
Mr. Skiadas, 64, claims then-Mayor Finkbeiner poked his finger into his cheek and forehead, struck him on the chest and head with his fist, grabbed his head and shook it, cursed and screamed, and threatened to send city inspectors to his restaurant on West Sylvania Avenue to find violations.
He claims the July 14, 2000, incident at the market, where he was trying to open a second Pepe's restaurant, caused him emotional stress. He is asking for damages in excess of $25,000.
The women and another friend had just arrived in the market when Ms. Hurrell said she saw Mr. Finkbeiner yelling at a market employee, demanding that he find Mr. Skiadas.
After the former mayor began yelling, Mrs. Hurrell said she went to get her friends, who were inside a restroom. She said that she didn't hear what Mr. Finkbeiner was yelling, but she was certain she saw no physical contact.
"The mayor may have shaken his finger once or twice, but that was about it," she said.
Ms. Genzman also testified she saw Mr. Finkbeiner shouting, and the only words she recognized were "city of Toledo.'' She spaced her fingers several inches apart to show Andrew Ayers, an attorney for Mr. Finkbeiner, the distance that separated the two men.
"Mr. Finkbeiner was screaming and hollering at Mr. Skiadas. He had his face real close to his," testified Ms. Genzman, adding that Mr. Finkbeiner waved his finger during the confrontation.
In questioning by Mr. Skiadas' attorney, John Potts, the women said they walked away from the incident while it was still in progress and didn't witness the entire encounter.
The trial, which is being decided by Judge Charles Wittenberg, entered its fourth week yesterday. Several more defense witnesses were expected to be called today when the trial resumes, and Dr. Charles Burke, who testified Friday, is expected to return tomorrow so that he can be questioned by Mr. Potts.
In earlier testimony yesterday, Robert Stausmire, a project manager for the firm that constructed Mr. Skiadas' restaurant in the market, said the project was slowed because of revisions that Mr. Skiadas wanted.
Mr. Stausmire said changes were also necessary because Mr. Skiadas purchased some used restaurant equipment, instead of installing new equipment as originally called for in plans submitted to the city for approval of permits.
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