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Published: Thursday, 6/14/2007

Woman pleads not guilty in Mother's Day eatery brawl

Harris Harris
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The 24-year-old woman accused of starting a brawl by allegedly beating two women at the Golden Corral restaurant on Mother's Day pleaded not guilty yesterday in Lucas County Common Pleas Court to two counts of felonious assault.

Sylvia Harris of 1244 Indiana Ave. appeared with her attorney, C. Drew Griffith, before Judge Linda Jennings, who set a trial date of Aug. 7.

Prosecutors at the hearing suggested Ms. Harris and her brother, Stephen Robinson, 21, also of 1244 Indiana, be tried separately, though they have the same July 16 pretrial hearing. Mr. Robinson is charged with two counts of felonious assault and was arraigned July 6.

After the hearing, Mr. Griffith defended his client and said he felt moving the charges to Common Pleas Court was unwarranted.

"These [felony] charges are not appropriate for what happened at the Golden Corral that day," Mr. Griffith said. "[Ms. Harris] is educated, working, and only acted in the defense of her child after she was threatened."

Ms. Harris has said a woman at the restaurant threatened her with a steak knife before the brawl.

Michael Scott, an attorney for Christine and Sophia Lewandowski in their civil lawsuit in the same case, said both women suffered serious injuries from Ms. Harris' actions.

Mr. Scott was in Judge Jennings' courtroom but was not involved in Ms. Harris' hearing yesterday.

He said Sophia Lewandowski, 91, spent three days in the hospital, then had to return. Mr. Scott said Christine Lewandowski suffered broken ribs in the beating.

Witnesses told police Ms. Harris became upset after a woman at the next table yelled at Ms. Harris' 1-year-old daughter, who was screaming in a high chair and attacked the Lewandowski women. Ms. Harris is accused of punching Sophia Lewandowski in the face, head, neck, and back.

She also is charged with punching her daughter, Christine Lewandowski, 56, in the head, neck, chest, and back.

Mr. Scott said a metal napkin holder and Sophia Lewandowski's walker were used against them in the attack.

The Lewandowskis have filed a civil suit against Ms. Harris, Mr. Robinson, who is accused of joining the fight, and the Golden Corral, demanding at least $25,000 in damages for injuries sustained in the altercation.

At least four other patrons reportedly suffered minor injuries.

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