Monday, January 09, 2012

TOP STORY >> Skating rink owner faces felony charges

Leader staff writer

Skateworld in Jacksonville will try to salvage its reputation after its owner was arrested last weekend for the second-degree assault of a 5-year-old girl.

Robert Allen Borders, 47, of Lonoke, who owns the business but not the property, was arrested at 9:05 p.m. Dec. 30 after police responded to a report of an incident at Skateworld, 521 J.P. Wright Loop Road.

Borders did not respond to a phone call from The Leader.

The business has a new sign promoting its new management.  Borders’ 22-year-old son, Robert “Bob” Borders, is now in charge. The son said he did not want to talk  about the incident or about taking over the business.

According to the police report, the victim told officers, “Robert tried to get me to go to the bathroom with him. He rubbed my butt and touched my neck. I climbed under the table when he touched my neck.”

One of several witnesses said, “He was standing by the bathroom trying to get her to go with him. When she said no, he shook his head yes,” according to the report.

Another witness said he saw Borders touch the girl, and he moved her away from him.

Borders said the night of his arrest that he didn’t know why the police were at the business. When police asked if he had been alone with any small children within the past hour, he told them he had been with a black girl inside the DJ booth, which is not fully enclosed. When asked if it was secluded from the rest of the rink, Borders said, “There were people around.”

Borders was released at 1 p.m. Dec. 31 on a $5,000 bond. The rink still held its annual New Year’s Eve lock-in from 6 p.m. that day to 7 a.m. Jan. 1. Admission to the lock-in was $20 and that included drinks and pizza.

If he is convicted of the felony charge, Borders could be sentenced to 5 to 20 years in prison, unless he receives a plea bargain.

According to the Jacksonville District Court, the Pulaski County District Court and the Pulaski County Circuit Court, Borders has not been on trial for any offenses other than traffic violations since 1993. Capt. Kenny Boyd of the Jacksonville Police Department said they have heard similar complaints about Borders, but he could not comment on whether he had been arrested before on similar charges.

Whether he is convicted or not, the business has been suffering financially, and the incident has not helped its image.

Fights have been a common occurrence at the hangout.

Robert Vogel of Vogel Enterprises in Little Rock, the owner of the property rented to run Skateworld, is out of town for the next four weeks, according to his office.
Borders will be in district court at the Jacksonville police station at 9 a.m Thursday.

Boyd added that police would like any other possible victims  or witnesses to come forward.

“It tends to be a pattern. Most cases, the first time they’re caught is not the first time it’s occurred,” he said.

Reactions to the accusations against Borders are mixed.

“I know a different side of Mr. Borders. The man I met wouldn't harm a child in any way, form or fashion. You know that creepy feeling you get around creeps? I never felt that way around him, ever. I have been going to that rink since he has owned it, and I have had nothing but good things to say about the way things were done. I was shocked when I heard of his arrest. Flabbergasted,” said a frequent customer.

“I can't for sure tell you that he is innocent, but I can share the fact that every time that I was in there we found some way to talk about God or church or how drinking and smoking was bad. I have never even heard this man cuss now that I think about it. I have heard that he has been accused of this before and that the person that called the complaint this time was the same as the last. Personal vendetta?” she continued.

Others say that the accusation doesn’t surprise them.

Another frequent Skateworld customer said, “Anytime I have ever been around him I would watch him when he was around kids because I saw how he looked at them, and the way he would touch them was very inappropriate.”

The customer said, when asked what she would like to see happen with the  business, “I would like it if he had nothing to do with it. New owners definitely!”