The owner of a struggling teen night club in Midtown Kingston is a convicted felon who served three-and-a-half years in state prison following a guilty plea for a 2001 domestic assault.
John C. Rhoades, 41, opened the Kingston Den in September to provide youth in Midtown with a safe, drug- and alcohol-free place to socialize. The nightclub offered pool tables, video games Wi-Fi access and other amenities for kids ages 10 to 18 during after-school hours and dance parties for 13- to 18-year-olds on the weekends. Rhoades’ effort drew praise and support from the youth arts enrichment program the Center for Creative Education and Kingston High School social worker Amy Kapes, who told the Kingston Timesthat she would recommend the club to students looking for safe after-school activities.
But it is unclear whether anybody connected with the club was aware of Rhoades’ criminal past. In August 2002, Rhoades began serving a four-year sentence for felony second-degree assault. He was released March 2006 and was under parole supervision until March 2009.
Rhoades confirmed that the conviction was based on a domestic violence incident with a former girlfriend that occurred on Fathers’ Day 2001. An item published in the Times Herald-Record on June 20, 2001 cites state police officials’ account of the crime. According to the story, Rhoades arrived home late and intoxicated to a Father’s Day dinner at the New Windsor apartment of then-girlfriend Leza Warren. According to state police, in the ensuing argument Rhoades struck Warren and her 10-year-old son on the head with a wooden baseball bat. He was arrested two hours later after an off-duty state trooper spotted him on Broadway in Newburgh.
Rhoades confirmed the broad outlines of the incident, but disputed key points and offered documentation to show that there was more to the story than had been reported. A 2004 appellate court ruling affirmed a lower court’s refusal to allow Rhoades to withdraw his guilty plea based on his contention that he did not possess the adequate Mens Rea or “guilty mind” to commit the crime.
Rhoades said the 2001 incident was an aberration and that he has stayed out of trouble ever since. He also expressed concern that exposure of the incident would spell doom for the Kingston Den, an initiative he says he began for the best intentions, to give back to the community and help youth.
“That was a long time ago and I’ve gone through a lot of stuff and made a lot of changes since then,” said Rhoades.
Rhoades said his feeling the incident was a part of his life that was over and done with was why he didn’t talk about it up front. “It’s so far in the past … my focus was trying to do this teen dance club.”