Reardon case now on August jury docket; judge denies motion to dismiss for alleged false testimony to grand jury

Michelle and Andy Reardon

Michele Reardon, left, and Andy Reardon | Photos courtesy of Hernando County (Fla.) Sheriff's Department

QUINCY — A motion to dismiss a grand jury indictment in a case against the former owners of a Quincy business facing two theft charges was dismissed by an Adams County judge on Monday morning.

St. Louis attorney Justin Summary appeared for the motion hearing before Judge Tad Brenner. His clients, Andy P. Reardon, 58, and Michelle M. Reardon, 52, of Spring Hill, Fla., were not in the courtroom for the hearing.

Summary’s 11-page motion, filed Feb. 23, noted that a single witness, Det. Zach Bemis with the Quincy Police Department, testified during the grand jury proceedings. He claimed Bemis was “false in multiple key respects” and was used to “mislead” the grand jury to secure an indictment of the Reardons.

The Reardons owned Backyard Adventures Pools and Spas LLC, 1800 Broadway, in Quincy. A Dec. 8, 2021, story in Muddy River News detailed multiple complaints filed by dissatisfied customers against the business for shoddy work installing pools and spas.

The Reardons were arrested and booked in the early morning hours of Sept. 27 by the Hernando County Sheriff’s Department in Brooksville, Fla., on an Illinois warrant. Both have been charged with two counts of theft by deception — one for between $10,000 and $100,000, a Class 2 felony, and one for between $500 and $10,000, a Class 3 felony.

An Adams County grand jury indicted the Reardons on Sept. 7 on both charges. Each count said the Reardons “knowingly obtained by deception control” over property — belonging to owner Melissa Drew on or about Nov. 22, 2021, in the first count and owners Stephen and Debra Kraus on or about Dec. 1, 2021, in the second count. The Reardons allegedly took money from Drew and the Krauses and deceived them about what they were supposed to get.

Summary noted in his argument that Illinois state statute says “a member or manager of an LLC is not personally liable solely for being or acting as a member or manager.”

“There’s no evidence that Andy Reardon or Michelle Reardon were involved in the making of the contracts or the payment of the funds with respect to these two alleged victims,” Summary said. “There is no evidence that a contractual agreement was presented to the grand jury. Instead, the state presented false testimony that the pool and spa in question were purchased from ‘the Reardons’ when they were not.”

Summary also claimed Michelle Reardon has no association with Backyard Adventures other than being the wife of Andy Reardon.

Brenner asked if a member of an LLC could be held liable under certain circumstances. Summary replied that a person could be held liable for their conduct, “but we have no conduct on behalf of these two individuals.”

“Well, we don’t know yet,” Brenner said. “Isn’t that the purpose of a trial so that the state can try to prove its case if they can? You just set out the elements of the offense, and those are normally dealt with in jury instructions. If the state has not presented evidence on each of the elements, the jury should return a verdict of not guilty. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the state should be deprived of its opportunity to try to present evidence, does it?”

“Not as far as the trial,” Summary said. “But the issue here today is whether the indictment would have ever occurred had false testimony not been given.”

“So you’re saying the officer falsified his testimony?” Brenner asked. After Summary said yes, Brenner said, “That’s a pretty gutsy allegation.”

“I don’t take the allegations lightly,” Summary said. “But I have a whole stack of hundreds of documents here that I’ve personally went through, and there’s no shred of evidence that any money was paid to the Reardons despite sworn grand jury testimony that money was paid to the Reardons.”

Brenner later asked if it would be fair to assume that the general partner of a business would have check writing authority.

“Possibly, but there’s still no evidence of any money being received by them,” Summary said. “Despite the fact that there was no evidence of monies ever being received by the Reardons, the testimony was that the alleged victims provided money to the Reardons. That was in the sworn testimony.”

Summary also called the prosecution “ethically dubious.” 

“This is a flagrant misuse of the (Adams County) State’s Attorney’s Office and their authority,” he said. “It’s a misuse of the grand jury proceedings. It’s an attempt to use the courts to act as a debtor’s prison to force Andy Reardon to pay for the alleged business debts of Backyard Adventures.”

Summary said prosecuting the Reardons would be the equivalent of himself not receiving an order from Amazon and then having a warrant issued for Jeff Bezos.

“Because I didn’t receive my Amazon order, there must have been some kind of fraud or stealing by deceit,” he said. “That’s not how this is supposed to work.”

Assistant State’s Attorney Brett Jansen provided paperwork showing Michelle Reardon is listed as a manager for Backyard Adventures, according to documentation filed in the Illinois Secretary of State’s office. He said the state’s attorney’s office and Bemis used “shorthand” in referring to the Reardons when discussing the business.

“Many of the other issues raised by (Summary) are questions of fact,” Jansen said. “Is the business owner using these funds in a way that is not protected by the LLC in that he uses them for personal use? Is he making contracts or having the business make contracts in a deceitful and defrauding manner? Those are questions of fact to be determined by a jury at a trial, not to be determined at a motion to dismiss grand jury-heard testimony.

“An LLC is not an automatic protection against all criminal activity.”

In ruling to dismiss the motion, Brenner said a grand jury’s decision whether probable cause exists is a “very low standard” in comparison to proving beyond a reasonable doubt. He said a jury is the ultimate trier of fact.

“A jury will hear the evidence and determine whether each and every element has been net … before these defendants can be convicted,” Brenner said. “If the trier of fact finds some of these elements have not been proven by the state, then the trier of fact will acquit these defendants. But ultimately, at this stage, we do have a binding probable cause by a grand jury, and I see no reason to dismiss at this point.”

Brenner reserved a ruling on two motions in limine. One involves precluding references to uncharged or unrelated conducts, bad acts and unrelated investigations involving six people. The other motion debates whether the Reardons were given or received any money by the alleged victims.

The case now is on the jury trial docket that starts Aug. 5.

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