US bar owner charged in beating of newspaper food critic; 1 other charged in attack

ALBANY, New York (AP) — A bar owner with a history of legal scrapes was charged Friday with hiring a man to beat up the food critic for a newspaper that has reported on the restaurateur's checkered past.

Timothy Rankins, 41, is accused of having associates assault Steve Barnes, the Albany Times Union's food writer, as he left a restaurant with a friend in October 2008. Barnes, who occasionally wrote about Rankins' restaurants, had posted on the newspaper's website that he would be dining there that night.

Two men wearing button-down shirts and gloves set upon the men and began throwing punches as the men left the restaurant around 9:30 p.m. Oct. 17, 2008.

"My face is swollen and bloody," Barnes wrote in an account on his blog the next day. "One of my knees, one elbow, one wrist and the back of my head are ailing. Josh (his friend, Joshua Carr) hurts in a variety of places."

Rankins was arraigned Friday in Albany County court on a misdemeanor assault charge that carries up to a year in jail if he's convicted. Prosecutors had asked for $20,000 bail, but a judge set the amount at $5,000 and Rankins was freed.

"He has maintained his innocence and has entered a not guilty plea consistent with that," his lawyer, Paul DerOhannesian, told the Times Union.

The paper's police reporter has written about Rankins' cozy connections to city officials, including that police officers were frequently seen dining for free at one of Rankins' restaurants.

The paper has also reported on his indictment on charges that he failed to pay $191,000 in taxes, that he surrendered his liquor license after a raid at one his restaurants netted more than 200 underage drinkers, and that he was one of the city's worst parking scofflaws.