St. Martin bar owner, driver charged in court

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 7/3/96.

Prosecutors charged James Arceneau, 19, St. Martin, and Gary Lieser, owner of the Short Stop Bar, St. Martin, in Stearns County District Court June 27, in connection with a May 18 accident that left two dead.

Arceneau was charged with eight counts of criminal vehicular homicide after he drove 98 miles per hour with a blood-alcohol content of .14, causing his car to go off the road and flip, prosecutors say.

Arceneau's 1994 Pontiac Grand Prix left Stearns County Road 12 near St. Martin at about 10:30 p.m., hit an approach, vaulted into the air and rolled over. Albany resident Ryan Shay, 20, and Brent Schmitz, 19, St. Martin, died after they were thrown from the car. Arceneau was the only occupant wearing a seat belt.

Meanwhile, the owner of the bar that prosecutors say served Arceneau, Schmitz and Shay was charged with seven counts of providing alcohol to a person younger than 21, the fourth time the bar owner has been charged with such a crime in the past 10 years.

According to the criminal complaint against Gary Lieser, owner of the Short Stop bar: Arceneau told a bartender he, Shay and Schmitz drank nine pitchers of beer from about 2:30 to 7 p.m. May 18 at the Short Stop.

Arceneau said Lieser, 43, knows all three of them and knew he, Shay and Schmitz were younger than 21.

Lieser disputes that account. In the criminal complaint, Lieser said Schmitz entered the bar at 12:30 p.m. and had pizza and pop. He said Arceneau and Shay arrived a short while later.

The three men then left some time during the day, Lieser said, and returned about 9:30 p.m. Lieser denies serving any alcohol to them.

However, another Short Stop bartender said she saw Lieser serve the three. The bartender, Heidi Ruegemer, said Arceneau told her at 7 p.m. that he, Schmitz and Shay had had nine pitchers of beer beginning at 2:30 p.m.

Tests revealed Shayŕs blood-alcohol content was .13, Schmitz had a blood alcohol content of .24.

In 1987, Lieser pled guilty to providing alcohol to a minor after sheriff's officials arrested a 17-year-old for drinking and driving. The juvenile had a blood-alcohol content of .13 and said he drank several beers at Lieser's Silver Spur Saloon, another bar in St. Martin.

In 1988, Lieser pled guilty to serving alcohol to a 20-year-old after the man was pulled over for erratic driving. The 20-year-old said he bought beer at both the Silver Spur and the Short Stop. Last year, Lieser was given a misdemeanor ticket for serving alcohol to a person younger than 21.

Lieser and Arceneau are scheduled to appear in Stearns County District Court on Monday, July 8, before Judge Elizabeth Hayden.

If convicted, Lieser could face 90 days in jail and a $700 fine for each count. If Arceneau is convicted, he could face four years in prison for each count, according to state sentencing guidelines.

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