After a nearly two-year long legal battle, Yaron Kweller and Jordan Ringden, the two defendants in the Colonial Case, have been found not guilty of criminal sex charges.
On Oct. 31 after less than two hours of deliberations, a Broome County jury returned with a not guilty verdict for Kweller and Ringden, two former co-owners of The Colonial and Dos Rios Cantina — two popular restaurants that have since closed — after being charged with sexually assaulting a 21-year-old woman, before their arrest on Feb. 22, 2022. The decision was reached after the third and final day of testimony. The verdict marks the end of a years-long legal process that stemmed from an incident on Nov. 27, 2021 in Downtown Binghamton.
In a statement, Elena Fast, one of the attorneys involved in the case, addressed the decision, saying that the prosecution’s case was “unfounded and legally [unsupported].”
“We are eternally grateful to each and every juror for honoring their oath and following Judge [Carol] Cocchiola’s legal instructions,” Fast wrote. “Our clients are relieved that after a two-year battle, they can begin to rebuild their lives and livelihood, which were destroyed by this malicious prosecution.”
Aside from the initial reaction to the verdict in her statement, Fast also reiterated claims of “numerous examples of shocking prosecutorial misconduct” committed by the Broome County District Attorney’s Office when seeking to convict Kweller and Ringden. According to Fast, Alyssa Congdon — the senior assistant DA representing “The People” in the Colonial Case — and the DA’s Office instructed one of the complainants in the case to delete her social media accounts. She also accused Congdon of withholding one of the complainant’s text messages and blasted the Office’s failure to preserve “favorable” body camera footage from a responding officer on Nov. 27, 2021.
In a statement to WBNG, Michael Korchak, the Broome County DA, commented on the verdict.
“In all trial cases, the criminal justice system requires that, in order to convict, all jurors must agree that each element of the crimes charged is proven beyond a reasonable doubt,” Korchak said. “The court instructs the jury that ‘probably guilty’ is not enough. The jury in this case, by their verdict, believed that the evidence presented did not rise to the level of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Korchak also pushed back against Fast’s allegations, saying that sworn affidavits show that the complainant was instructed to delete her social media by someone outside the DA’s Office and that the text messages mentioned were deleted before the complainant met with prosecutors.
“We do have information that the witnesses were in contact with an attorney outside of the DA‘s office that they were taking advice from,” Korchak said. “Again, that’s an unfortunate circumstance for everyone involved, but I stand with the prosecutors in my office. We did nothing improper in this case. It was just a very difficult case, and we continue to stand with the victims.”
Charges against Leor Kweller, Yaron Kweller’s brother, were thrown out in court in June.