Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. What follows is neither legal advice nor a statement of fact.
But I spent the past week digging into the story of Dallas restaurateur Hunter Pond’s Colorado arrest warrant. Pond is the founder and owner of Vandelay Hospitality Group, which owns and operates the brands East Hampton Sandwich Co., Hudson House, Drake’s Hollywood, Lucky’s Hot Chicken, DL Mack’s, Brentwood, and Anchor Fish Bar.
The gossip landed in Dallas like a lightning bolt last weekend, after a “Wanted Person” advertisement for Pond appeared on the San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page. (It has since been removed.) The poster cited two charges, “harassment: strike/shove/kick” and “disorderly conduct: offensive gesture.”
Missing in that gossip, however, was the true story of what happened. I called the sheriff’s office; they declined to comment on the incident but told me that the charges against Pond are not serious enough to warrant extradition to Colorado. A departmental representative said he will only be arrested if he returns to that state.
I filed a public records request with the Mountain Village Police Department for the incident report, which they denied, citing an “ongoing investigation.” Colorado law, unlike Texas’, allows police departments broad freedom to restrict access to records in ongoing cases. By midweek, news outlets began reporting on the wanted poster, starting with WFAA-TV.
Pond’s attorneys, Larry and Jason Friedman, gave statements to WFAA, LA Weekly, the Dallas Morning News, and other outlets; their statements were, briefly, the only available account of whatever incident led to Pond’s arrest warrant and wanted poster. Finally, late Wednesday afternoon, Pond filed a lawsuit in Dallas County against the woman who allegedly initiated the police complaint.
Back to the disclaimers. We do not know her side of the story. The police report and affidavit are still confidential. I am not a lawyer. But I have read the full lawsuit Pond filed against his apparent accuser, and I have opinions that are not based on legal expertise.
OK. Ready for my non-expert opinion?
This lawsuit is so dumb.
The suit names the woman who allegedly either assaulted Pond (Pond’s story) or was harassed by Pond (official story). They don’t know anything else about her and would like the lawsuit served “wherever she may be found.” I found her address on Google within 20 minutes. I’m not telling.
Then we get a bunch of padding about how Pond is a cool guy “who married his high school sweetheart” and is super successful in business. Good for you! Gold star. In October, Pond, “along with his wife, two (2) of his children, his father-in-law and his [father-in-law’s] wife” were in Telluride and got on a bus to their hotel in Mountain Village. The Ponds exited the bus at the wrong stop and proceeded to walk down the road to their hotel.
“There are no sidewalks on the Boulevard, so it is common knowledge that people walk in the middle of the Boulevard,” the filing states.
I checked Google Street View. There are sidewalks. Admittedly, they are somewhat distant from the road in places. You know how suburbs sometimes have cutesy sidewalks that loop around trees? Mountain Village Boulevard is like that. Its sidewalk even crosses the road, so it has signs and guideposts for lost pedestrians. The path, which is shared with bicycles, has lampposts, too. There was no need for Hunter Pond and his wife and kids to walk down the middle of a road at night in winter.
I called Jason Friedman, one of Pond’s attorneys, to ask about the sidewalk situation, among other things.
“It was at night,” Friedman said. “These people were dropped off on a bus and probably didn’t see it, but from what I was told there was no sidewalk.”
The suit continues: “As the Ponds walked down the Boulevard, the Defendant, while barreling down the Boulevard (which has a speed limit of 25) between 50 and 60 mph down, whipped around the blind corner near the Blue Mesa Parking lot. Seeing the Ponds, the Defendant swerved, then veered her car towards the Ponds coming within two (2) feet of them, while she shouted, ‘get the fuck out of the road!’”
This time the lawsuit is wrong in a way that undercuts Pond’s claim. Near this location, the speed limit is 20, not 25. At the Blue Mesa Parking lot, it’s 10. Past that parking lot, by the way, the sidewalks are so obvious that I assume even Pond saw them. Given the presence of sidewalks, the driver’s exhortation seems more like tough love than anything else.
The lawsuit then repeats the “get the fuck out of the road” comment. (Friedman confirmed that the woman only yelled once.) Finally, it approaches the incident that apparently sparked Pond’s arrest warrant. Pond saw the driver parked in her car. “Pond, upset that the Defendant had almost hit his children with her vehicle and frightening his children [sic], walked up to the Defendant, knocked on her window and demanded an explanation for her recklessness. Unfortunately, Defendant was extremely flippant about it and, like many millennials, did not want to take responsibility for her own actions.”
As the Morning News noted, Pond is also a millennial, born in 1987. But that’s not the interesting part. The interesting part is that’s the end of the story. The allegation stops there. What happened after Defendant was flippant? How long did the interaction last? Did the woman ever get out of her car? Did anybody crack any witty insults? Did Pond “strike/shove/kick”? How did Pond learn the woman’s name?
“She did not get out of the car,” Friedman confirmed. Regarding the length and content of the rest of the encounter, however, he explained, “I don’t know. It’s a pleading. A pleading is judicial notice, right, so obviously in a case things are still under investigation. That’s why you do discovery, to obtain facts and whatnot.”
Later, the suit claims that the woman “made contact with Pond’s person” and caused “physical pain.” Friedman told me that language is legal boilerplate, not an accusation.
I’ll make two final points. First, this lawsuit was written so quickly that the legal team skipped a basic grammar check. In fairness, Friedman did tell me that Pond had long contemplated taking this action. “He’s a father of three, walking down the street with his kids and his family. Lady’s screaming and swerving and scaring the kids, these people are jumping out of the way.”
More damningly, this is the narrative Pond chose to put out about his arrest warrant. He is telling the world that he walked down the middle of a dark mountain road instead of using a lit walking path, startled a driver, found the driver, and accosted her. Her version of the story may be worse.
Pond’s lawsuit demands more than $1 million.