Prosecutor plans to drop theft case against former gym owner

Kristin M. Kraemer, Tri-City HeraldNovember 9, 2012 

The owner of a now-defunct Kennewick gym saw his remaining theft charges dismissed Thursday, two months after a jury was unable to decide if he improperly charged an extra fee on members' credit cards.

Jason Ray Sleater, 35, was facing a second trial later this month in Benton County Superior Court on six counts of second-degree theft.

He was accused of charging a $19.60 "gym enhancement fee" to members of 509 Fitness about a month before the business shut down last year.

Sleater was acquitted in September of one count each of first- and second-degree theft, but the jury deadlocked on the six additional theft counts and Judge Bruce Spanner declared a mistrial.

Deputy Prosecutor Terry Bloor said at the time he needed to consider whether he would retry those charges, but announced Thursday in court that he was dropping the case.

"The jury was hung in the previous trial, with a split of 9-3 favoring acquittal," he wrote in the court document signed by Judge Craig Matheson. "There is no additional evidence the state can present at a retrial. Another trial may also result in a hung jury."

Bloor dismissed the charges without prejudice, which means he can re-file the case if new evidence comes to light.

Defense lawyer Scott Johnson said he and his client don't object to the move. Sleater, who now lives in Spokane, was not in court Thursday.

Prosecutors had alleged that Sleater pocketed money from his members when he billed them for the enhancement fee without authorization. The first-degree theft charge alleged Sleater received more than $5,000 from his actions and covered all the members who had to pay the fee -- even though the majority did not complain.

The seven second-degree theft charges were connected to seven specific victims and alleged Sleater intentionally deprived the victims of an access device.

-- Kristin M. Kraemer: 582-1531; kkraemer@tricityherald.com

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