Fairfax County prosecutors have filed a motion to drop felony arson charges against two fire-breathing bartenders who were facing more than 35 years in prison apiece for performing flaming bar tricks.
Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Morrogh confirmed to The Washington Examiner on Tuesday that he dismissed three felony charges because he couldn't find any evidence that the Jimmy's Old Town Tavern barkeeps were trying to hurt anybody. Nobody was injured the night the men were arrested, but there was evidence that a paper airplane hanging from the ceiling caught fire and burned, Morrogh said.
“I'm not saying it wasn't dangerous, but they weren't trying to burn anything,” Morrogh said. “They were just trying to do tricks.”
Mixologists Tegee Rogers, 33, and Justin Fedorchak, 39, still each face three misdemeanor charges through the Herndon municipal court. The men could get up to a year in jail for each misdemeanor. A trial date has not been scheduled.
Fairfax County Fire and Rescue spokesman Dan Schmidt said he could not confirm whether the charges had been dropped. He said the fire marshals are compelled to take action when they witness an act that is unsafe and against the fire code.
“They have to look at it like a worst-case scenario,” Schmidt said. “Obviously, they thought what they did was appropriate.”
Rogers and Fedorchak were hauled out of the bar in handcuffs shortly after midnight July 24 after they entertained customers by juggling bottles of alcohol and using lighters and matchbooks to spit out streams of fire.
The bartending pair were charged with three felonies: manufacturing and using an explosive device, burning or destroying a meeting house, and setting a fire capable of spreading. They were also charged with several state fire code violations.
The bar, which sits across the street from the Herndon Fire Station, had been performing the fire-breathing act for 13 years, owner Jimmy Cirrito told The Examiner last week. He said fire officials had never warned the bar to stop them. Fire officials said they investigated after receiving a letter and photo of the flaming act.
On Tuesday, Cirrito said his lawyer has advised him to keep mum until the matter is resolved.
“We feel things are going in the right direction,” Cirrito said. “I just want to thank everybody for their support. It's been unbelievable.”
Cirrito said he's received hundreds of well wishes from around the world since The Examiner's story last week.
Morrogh said he received several friendly letters from people who were opposed to the arrests, but that did not influence his decision.
“I just call them as I see them,” Morrogh said.