The former owner of Old City’s Eulogy Belgian Tavern sent threatening letters last year to two Common Pleas Court judges and 10 other people, signing the letters as someone else in an attempt to frame and possibly cause that person to be sent to jail, according to the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office.
The new details emerged Thursday as Michael Naessens, 54 — who was arrested in Las Vegas last month for his alleged crimes in Philadelphia — was arraigned in Municipal Court on charges including threats and other improper influence in official and political matters, terroristic threats, and a dozen counts of criminal use of a communication facility, according to court records.
Ben Waxman, a spokesperson for the District Attorney’s Office, said Naessens sent the letters to two judges who had overseen cases involving the person Naessens was attempting to frame. Waxman did not identify the judges or the person Naessens allegedly pretended to be, but said it was possible Naessens was seeking to have his target taken into custody over the threats, which he also sent to 10 of his target’s neighbors.
Waxman said that the target was initially taken into custody when authorities believed he had sent the letters, but that the investigation ultimately led authorities to Naessens.
Naessens’ attorney, Michael Fienman, said Thursday that Naessens maintains his innocence and would fight the case.
“It’s news to me that he’s being charged for allegedly sending intimidating correspondence to two public officials,” because the affidavit only listed one judge, Fienman said. “I look forward to reviewing the evidence that the commonwealth has to support these allegations, and I am confident that Mr. Naessens will be exonerated after a full trial on the merits.”
Naessens’ bail was set at $350,000, court records say. It was not immediately clear if he paid the 10 percent required to be released.
The Inquirer reported earlier this month that Common Pleas Court Judge Timika Lane received a racist and threatening letter from Naessens. He was arrested Jan. 22 in Clark County, Nev., and was held as a fugitive before being extradited.
Naessens, a former financial executive at Campbell Soup Co. with an MBA from Drexel University, closed Eulogy in 2017, saying he was concerned for his safety because employees had gotten caught up in drugs or criminal charges. He also said that he had been threatened after working with prosecutors on several cases.