2009-10-02 / Top Stories

After 4 Years, A Bar Owner Is Vindicated

Michael Vola is taken into custody by police officers of the 100 Precinct shortly after the knifing incident. Michael Vola is taken into custody by police officers of the 100 Precinct shortly after the knifing incident. A jury in Queens Supreme Court decided this week that a local bar owner was not responsible for a September 4, 2005 knife assault that left a man gutted.

The Beautiful Palm Garden Pub on Rockaway Beach Boulevard at Beach 114 Street was the scene of the brutal stabbing assault that night, when the barmaid's boyfriend slashed an underage patron across his stomach and then stabbed him in the chest following an argument, police said.

Court records say the victim's intestines spilled out of the gaping wound to his midsection. "He was cut just above his beltline all the way from one side of his abdomen to the other," a witness told The Wave.

The pub's owner, Owen Baxter, said the confrontation started inside the bar when Mark Sciortino, 20, made a "disrespectful" comment to the bartender, JoAnn Waters. Michael Vola, Waters' boyfriend, had words with Sciortino, which prompted Waters to ask Vola to leave.

Baxter contends that Sciortino was told he could not drink with the six other people with whom he came in, and said that's where the trouble may have started.

Police didn't say who initiated the violence, but a witness saw Vola pull Sciortino in towards him and stab him with a large knife while the two were out on the street, according to court records. Vola fled on foot but was apprehended less than a block away by two police officers, Villani and Johnson, at his apartment located at 183 Beach 114 Street.

Vola was charged with attempted murder, two counts of assault and criminal possession of a weapon, according to a spokeswoman for Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown.

He was tried in 2006 and was convicted and sentenced to eight years in prison for the assault.

EMS brought Sciortino to Jamaica Hospital where he immediately underwent surgery.

He recovered fully and sued the Beautiful Palm Garden Pub and its owner, Owen Baxter, for allowing Vola to continue drinking after he was already "visibly intoxicated," thereby becoming responsible for the attack.

After hearing five days of testimony, however, the jury of six men and women decided that the bartender did not serve alcohol to Vola when he was visibly intoxicated and that the owners of the bar did not allow it to become a "disorderly place."

"I'm glad that this is over," Baxter told The Wave this week. "It was a terrible incident and I am happy that it's finally closed."

The pub has been closed for several years, Baxter says, because of the civil lawsuit brought by Sciortino.

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