UPDATE: On Feb. 12, the two defendants were acquitted. More to come.
Two people accused in the brutal beating of a gay man in Rice Lake last spring went on trial today (Feb. 11).
Rien L. Hendricks of Rice Lake is charged with substantial battery with the intention of inflicting bodily harm, a felony.
Shannon R. Hendricks also is charged with substantial battery with the intention of inflicting bodily harm.
The two were arrested following an attack on March 17, 2013, in Rice Lake that sent Timothy Phares to the hospital suffering head and facial abrasions, as well as multiple fractures.
Phares had worked with Shannon Hendricks at Applebee’s restaurant.
According to Wisconsin Gazette archives, Rien Hendricks, Shannon’s husband, allegedly struck Phares in the head with a 2×4 in the parking lot of another local restaurant on March 17, 2013.
Rien Hendricks was apprehended shortly after the attack on the battery charge.
Shannon Hendricks, who allegedly drove her husband to the scene of the assault, witnessed it and drove him away, was charged with battery on June 3, 2013.
The defendants face fines of $10,000 and three and a half years in prison if convicted.
Phares has said that when Rien Hendricks attacked him, he shouted, “Fucking faggot, I’m going to kill you.”
In the immediate aftermath of the attack, Applebee’s kept Shannon Hendricks in her position at the restaurant and defended her continued employment: “This very unfortunate personal situation involving two of our franchisee’s employees occurred during their free time and entirely away from the restaurant. The husband of one employee has been charged by policy with felony assault. The police have informed us that this individual’s wife, who works at the restaurant, has not been charged and is not a subject in the investigation.”
At the same time, the restaurant asked Phares — who said he endured anti-gay harassment at Applebee’s — not to return to work because of all the negative publicity.
Phares subsequently returned to his job after Greg Flynn, CEO of Apple American Group Franchise, intervened. He later resigned. And Shannon Hendricks also eventually left the restaurant.
Two days were set aside for the trial in Barron County.
Records indicate that the defendants were in court earlier this month but no plea agreements were reached. Both have pleaded not guilty.
Phares said when he arrived to the courthouse in Barron this morning, he saw that the defendants have two witnesses for the trial. The prosecution has at least eight witnesses, including medical experts and patrons of the local restaurant.
Phares also said he wanted to make a statement to the judge if there is a sentencing phase of the trial. Although the defendants are not charged with bias, he said what happened to him was a hate crime.
Phares was one of the first to testify in the trial.
Lisa Neff is senior news editor for the Wisconsin Gazette.