Two owners of Downtown Binghamton restaurants along with one other individual have been arrested in connection with recent sexual assault allegations.

On Wednesday, the Binghamton Police Department (BPD) arrested Yaron “Ron” Kweller, 41, on the charge of rape in the third degree, and Jordan Rindgen, 33, on the charge of criminal sale of a substance in the third and fifth degree, and stated in a press release that another arrest was “expected.” On Monday, Ron Kweller’s brother, Leor Kweller, was also charged with rape in the third degree. Each arrest was in connection with an ongoing investigation regarding an incident that took place Nov. 27 at 141 Washington St.

Leor Kweller, who had turned himself in to BPD on Monday, was charged with raping a 19 year old woman, while Ron Kweller was accused of raping a 21 year old woman, according to binghamtonhomepage.com. All three individuals were arraigned in Binghamton City Court and then released.

Kweller and Rindgen are owners of The Colonial, a Downtown restaurant frequented by students, also holding ownership shares of Dos Rios Cantina and The Stone Fox. In December, each restaurant had closed following an outpour of sexual assault allegations on social media and the announcement of a BPD investigation, with residents holding a protest outside of the restaurants shortly after. The restaurants had opened again in January, announcing the instatement of several new policies in a statement, including a new management team.

In a statement posted on The Colonial’s Facebook page on Feb. 24, the restaurants announced both Kweller and Rindgen had been removed from operations in December, and that their legal team is “exploring options” in removing them as partners.

“Our remaining group of owners remains focused on earning back the faith and trust of our community, and restoring the restaurants to the positive, energetic members of the revitalized Downtown Binghamton business scene that they were prior to this event,” the statement read. “Please be reminded that, while there are some mutual owners of all three restaurants, each establishment has its own unique ownership group.”

Jared Kraham, mayor of the city of Binghamton — who had previously declined to comment on the investigation — said in a Twitter statement on Wednesday that the arrests are the product of months of investigative work from BPD and the Broome County District Attorney’s Office.

“With today’s arrests, I want to be clear — our community will not tolerate sexual assault anytime, anywhere by anyone,” Kraham wrote. “These charges are serious and beyond disturbing. It’s important to recognize, too, the bravery of sexual assault survivors who come forward under unimaginable circumstances in the pursuit of justice and accountability.”

The “Binghamton Believes Survivors of Sexual Assault” Facebook group, in which many allegations of sexual assault had surfaced in December, currently holds over 14,300 members, including several admins with experience in helping survivors of sexual assault.

Quinn Singer, an admin of the Facebook page, currently works as a volunteer with the Crime and Victims Assistance Center (CVAC), and had previously been working full-time at the organization for years, most recently as the Broome County sexual assault response team coordinator. Singer said she has been in contact with “secondary victims,” or the families of survivors.

Singer said the restaurants should not have reopened, and that despite the new initiatives and statements, the owners had expressed indifference when organizations like CVAC had attempted to work with them before.

“It all feels too little, too late,” Singer said. “I just know firsthand that there were programs that reached out to the bar for incidents like [these]. CVAC had a safer bars program that was pitched specifically to this restaurant group. And it was not something they pursued at the time.”

As information continues to come to light, Singer noted the impact of advocacy and community attention.

“I think that our students on the [BU] campus also have organized and begun advocating like none other in the past few years, and I think that that definitely will have an influence on their ability to remain open as people are arrested and the trial happens and the real details emerge,” Singer said. “I think people are underestimating the fact that details will end up coming out from the case, and it’s not going to end just as they released a statement today — the trial could take years.”

Though many allegations have surfaced publicly on social media, Christine Battisti, CEO of CVAC, said the organization adheres to strict confidentiality protocols with survivors, and that it aims to provide a comforting environment to any survivors.

“That’s all part of coming here, empowering victims to be a part of the outcome and how their case proceeds and to give them choices in the matter — because sometimes victims are powerless because something happened to them,” Battisti said. “They didn’t have control over that. So part of what we work with is we try to give victims control over the decisions that they make about their case.”

Kweller’s attorney, Paul Battisti, who ran as the Republican candidate for Broome County District Attorney in 2020, is the husband of Christine. Battisti said the connection would not impact either of their work, stating she had worked at CVAC for 18 years, serving clients in various roles with no issue.

“I don’t think there’s a conflict of interest at all,” Battisti said. “Paul is a defense attorney and has his own rules and regulations and ethics that he has to provide to his clients and CVAC has theirs. And we adhere to confidentiality, and we take that very seriously.”

Jordan Rindgen is represented by Thomas Jackson, who had formerly served as senior assistant district attorney in 2008.

On campus, various student organizations made public statements regarding the situation in December, including a call for a boycott of the restaurants by the Student Association (SA) and the Women’s Student Union.

Samantha Carroll, the SA vice president for student success and a junior majoring in philosophy, politics and law, wrote the SA Executive Board is relieved to see that “punitive legal measures” are being taken against Kweller and Rindgen.

“That being said, we recognize that many in the community may still not be satisfied with this, and may still feel uncomfortable given the restaurants’ presence downtown,” Carroll wrote. “We want to reiterate that survivors of sexual assault always have our support, and we will continue to do everything in our power to make all students feel safe.”

Carroll also emphasized that the SA stands in solidarity with anyone impacted by these events and that there are resources available on and off campus to students who may be struggling or are in need of support.

Other student groups like Domestic and Oppressive Violence Education (DOVE) — an organization that aims to educate students on forms of interpersonal violence, including sexual assault — want students who may feel unsafe in Downtown Binghamton after the news of the arrests to know that they should remain supportive of each other.

“The fact that so many young women have reportedly come forward highlights the importance of learning the warning signs of sexual abuse, keeping each other safe and ultimately speaking up when you see something wrong,” the DOVE E-Board wrote in an email.

Paul Battisti, The Colonial, Dos Rios Cantina and The Stone Fox declined to comment.

This is a developing story, which will be updated as Pipe Dream receives more information from witnesses and authorities. This story was last updated on 3/1/2022 with further information regarding a third arrest.

If you or someone you know is the victim of sexual assault, harassment or anything related, the Violence, Abuse and Rape Crisis Center (VARCC) or the Crime Victims Assistance Center (CVAC) are available resources. CVAC is located at 377 Robinson St. in Binghamton and can be reached by phone at (607) 722-4256 for a 24/7 crisis support line or by text at (607) 725-8196. CVAC services are also available at the VARCC office, which is located on the third floor of Old Johnson Hall and can be reached by phone at (607) 777-3010.

Pipe Dream was in contact with sexual assault survivors who opted not to share their story with the media out of a concern for their safety. Those interested in sharing their experiences can contact news@bupipedream.com.