The developer of the failed Empire Theater renovation project in Over-the-Rhine was convicted today of spending money intended for the theater on new shoes, jewelry and thousands of dollars in other personal expenses.
The Hamilton County jury found LaShawn Pettus-Brown guilty of all seven theft-related charges after three days of deliberations. He faces up to 21 years in prison when he returns for sentencing next month.
Although the verdict was unanimous, two jurors said after the verdict today that the decision was difficult because some believed Cincinnati officials also were responsible for the project’s failure.
They said development officials and others repeatedly failed to act, despite “red flags” about Pettus-Brown’s ability to manage city money and complete the project.
The city contributed more than $180,000 to the project, in hopes of spurring development on Vine Street. Mayor Charlie Luken was among the city officials to testify at the trial.