Prosecutors dropped three misdemeanor battery charges against Crab Stop Owner Ellis Buckner Jr. after he completed a six-month deferred prosecution program last month, court records show.
Buckner, 52, of Sebastian, was ordered to comply with certain conditions throughout the program, which began last September. Buckner completed the program Feb. 22, prompting the charges to be dropped three days later, Assistant State Attorney Gina Kondziola said.
“We worked with the victims to see if it was something they were okay with,” Kondziola said.
The deferred prosecution program is offered on a case-by-case basis to first-time offenders with certain misdemeanors. Buckner had three battery charges after three women accused Buckner of touching them inappropriately last year in separate incidents at work.
Kondziola said prosecutors had testimonies from the victims, but no independent witness testimonies or surveillance footage to verify the acts.
“It doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. It means we didn’t have enough evidence to prove it happened beyond a reasonable doubt,” Kondziola said. “This was the best outcome.”
Buckner was charged with battery June 12, 2020, after a bartender accused Buckner of squeezing her upper thigh at the Sebastian Crab Stop. The woman said she heard Buckner say “nice legs,” according to a Sebastian police report.
Two more battery charges were filed against Buckner the following week. The charges stemmed from two incidents at the Vero Beach Crab Stop, Vero Beach police previously said.
Two employees – both women – at the Vero Beach restaurant accused Buckner of touching them inappropriately. Police said both incidents were sexual in nature.
Kondziola said all three women were part of the deferred prosecution agreement. Buckner was ordered to not have any contact with the women throughout the duration of the program.
Buckner was placed on probation and required to meet certain conditions for the agreement. Bucker had to be available for services of the Comprehensive Offender Rehabilitation Program, meet monthly with his diversion officer and complete 20 hours of community service, court records show.
The owner was also required to pay $270 to the rehabilitation program, $150 to the state attorney’s office, $50 to the clerk of the court and $20 to Treasure Coast Crime Stoppers.