Peter Thomas, a Baltimore restaurateur who gained notoriety on “The Real Housewives of Atlanta,” is standing trial this week in Baltimore Circuit Court on allegations that he drunkenly choked a woman.
On Tuesday, Chanel Williams testified that she decided to go to Bar One, on Lancaster Street near South Central Avenue in Harbor East, with two friends after dinner the night of March 20, 2022, because it had been awhile since she last visited.
“We were all there having a good time,” said Williams, 30, of Baltimore County, in the Elijah E. Cummings Courthouse in Baltimore. “Everything was fine.”
Next, Williams said, a woman invited the group to a booth in the VIP area. That’s when Thomas, a co-owner of the restaurant and the ex-husband of supermodel Cynthia Bailey, came over and gave her a hug. He pushed her back into the lounge chair with his body weight, she testified, and she figured that he’d been drinking.
Later, Thomas came back to the booth, she said, and started cursing her out for no apparent reason. He then put a hand around her neck and squeezed for about 30 seconds, Williams testified.
Williams testified that she left the restaurant and drove home. She said she called 911 that night and filed charges the following afternoon with a court commissioner.
Her friend, Cierra Dunlap, told the jury that she had been talking and dancing with Thomas and joked that Williams was upset with him. That’s because he had blocked Dunlap’s phone number.
“I didn’t know that was going to hit a trigger point,” said Dunlap, noting that she had made up that Williams was upset.
On cross-examination, Dunlap testified that she was talking to Thomas and went to dinner with him. They were intimate one time. She said he also sent her $2,500
In her closing argument, Assistant State’s Attorney Ashley Sudberry told the jury to focus on what happened that night in the restaurant and not other information, including the details of past relationships.
“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury,” Sudberry said, “this is an assault case.”
Thomas, she said, engaged in “downright irresponsible behavior” — conduct that amounted to second-degree assault.
Meanwhile, Warren Brown, Thomas’ attorney, described his client as a hardworking man who built a business in Harbor East, which he called the jewel of Baltimore.
Brown asked the jury to look at the version of events that the state outlined in court with a critical lens. He said it made no sense that his client would attack customers.
“I can’t profess to know exactly what happened,” Brown said. “I wasn’t there.”
“The burden is on them to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt,” he later added during his closing argument.
A manager at Bar One, Hannah Akinwunmi, testified that Williams got in Thomas’ face. Marquis Britton said he was sitting in the booth that night and heard a commotion but did not make anything of it.
Thomas, 62, testified that he was at the restaurant the entire day and described his role as a promoter. He said he typically drinks three or four cocktails but stated that he was not intoxicated.
Initially, Thomas said he did not see the women walk into the restaurant, but he later went over to greet them.
Williams was different that night, he said, and asked him why he’d blocked her friend. “She was hysterical,” Thomas testified. “She was in my face.”
He said he did not put his hand around her neck, calling the allegation “ridiculous.” Instead, Thomas testified, he “eased her off” him and she fell back into the chair.
Nowadays, he said, everyone has a camera on their cellphone.
If the allegations were true, Thomas testified, “I’d be on every blog if that happened.”