Felony charges against two Herndon bartenders for "breathing" fire will be dropped, said Fairfax Commonwealth's Attorney Raymond F. Morrogh.
On July 24, longtime Jimmy's Old Town Tavern employees Tegee Rogers, 33, of Herndon and Justin Fedorchak, 39, of Manassas were each charged with three felony offenses by Fairfax County fire marshal Lt. Joseph Vacchio, who was at the Herndon tavern that evening.
The bartenders were performing what they called the "flaming bartender" trick in which they "breathe" fire by spitting high-proof alcohol onto a flame. It was a trick that had been performed at the tavern hundreds of times in the past decade, said tavern owner Jimmy Cirrito.
That evening, Rogers and Fedorchak were each arrested and charged with manufacturing and using an explosive device; setting a fire capable of spreading; and burning or destroying a meeting house, all felonies. They also were each charged with three violation of fire prevention code charges, all misdemeanors.
Cirrito said he was never issued a warning to stop the flaming bartender trick, even though it was performed in front of firefighters over the years.
"Warnings are not typically given in cases involving 'life safety issues,'" Fairfax County Fire and Rescue spokeswoman Renee Stilwell said in early August. "This was an occupied dwelling where fire safety violations were observed firsthand by a fire marshal."
The case received regional media attention as Herndon community members rallied around Rogers and Fedorchak, establishing a legal defense fund in their name on Facebook.
Today Morrogh said the felony charges in the case were inappropriate and will be dismissed.
"I reviewed the case and decided the felony charges were not appropriate," he said. "I didn't find any evidence of malice and the explosive device was a bottle with a wick in it that was lit. I filed a motion to have the felony charges dismissed."
A formal hearing to dismiss the felony charges will be held in Fairfax County District Court in Herndon on Thursday. The statewide fire prevention code misdemeanors against the bartenders still stand and a preliminary hearing is scheduled for Sept 22. Those charges could result in three years imprisonment and a combined fine of $7,500 for each of them.
"We were very confident this case would be resolved appropriately by the Commonwealth's Attorney and we are looking forward to the proper resolution in this case," said attorney Mani Fierro of the Herndon Law firm, which represents Rogers and Fedorchak, along with attorney Kyle Manikas.
Cirrito said today he appreciates the "overwhelming support" of the community, but would not comment on any specific charges. He could still face charges from the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control.
Agents representing the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control also were present at the tavern when the fire marshal acted, said Fairfax-based attorney Mark Dycio, who represents Jimmy's Old Town Tavern,. ABC agents enforce criminal and ABC laws in more than 15,000 licensed establishments across the state.
As for the "flaming bartender" trick, Cirrito said it will never again be performed at his tavern.
"I suspect that this case permanently doused the flames at bars across the country," he said.
Fairfax County Fire and Rescue spokesman Don Schmidt declined to comment for this story.