NEWPORT—The Newport couple charged with attempted arson and reckless endangerment among other charges, were in Circuit Court before Judge Carter Moore for arraignment Monday morning.
Gary and Geraldine Ridens, former owners of the Brandywine Creek Steak House and Tavern are facing a multitude of charges including money laundering, tax evasion, attempted arson and reckless endangerment after a January 2017 incident led authorities to open an investigation.
Sometime on January 5, a passerby of the building complained of a strong natural gas odor emitting from the Brandywine building.
Authorities confirmed that the gas smell was coming from the Brandywine which was closed at the time of the incident.
Upon entering the building after it was deemed not hazardous, authorities discovered that the natural gas vents were open and lit candles were placed throughout the building. The couple were each charged with arson and reckless endangerment.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigations also determined that the Ridens had not reported all sales from the restaurant starting in the spring of 2014 to spring of 2017. This led TBI to charge the couple with conspiracy to commit theft over $10,000, three counts each of conspiracy to commit tax fraud and tax evasion.
On Monday, Judge Carter Moore told attorneys in the case that he personally had served with Gary Ridens in the Kiwanis Club and had taken music lessons with Geraldine Ridens but that this “would not be a conflict of interest” for him in hearing their case.
District Attorney Tonya Thornton said she was not the one representing the state against the Ridens, but that she would forward the information to the D.A. in charge.
The Ridens will appear in court on Tuesday, December 3.