Florida Drops Criminal Charges Against Former Ascend Wellness Chief

Charges against Abner Kurtin were dropped Friday.

The founder of New York cannabis company Ascend Wellness Holdings (CSE: AAWH.U) (OTCQX: AAWH), Abner Kurtin, will not face trial in Florida after state prosecutors chose not to pursue criminal charges.

The news comes two days after Kurtin stepped down from his CEO position. The company tapped Russell Reynolds, an executive recruiting firm, to search for a new permanent chief.

The former head honcho was arrested in Miami on Sept. 3 and charged with battery after a witness told police she saw him “striking” his girlfriend while they were parked in a car.

Ascend will be led by CFO Daniel Neville and President and co-founder Frank Perullo as co-CEOs while Kurtin’s permanent replacement is sought. Kurtin will transition to being executive chairman of the board.

The company board of directors hasn’t further addressed the allegations against Kurtin or an internal investigation the company said it had launched into the circumstances around his arrest.

“As the company prepares to enter the next phase of its growth story, the board determined that now was the right time to initiate this transition,” the Sept. 6 statement read.

In a statement after the case dismissal, Kurtin said that the two “were involved in a verbal argument that was never physical at any point.”

“I have apologized to her privately for my verbal actions, and we both moved on with our relationship in a positive manner,” Kurtin said.

According to earlier reporting by The Green Market Report, the arrest affidavit showed that the 55-year-old Kurtin was arrested in Miami Beach at 4701 Meridian Ave., the address of the Ritz-Carlton Residences, after a witness saw Kurtin “striking” his girlfriend, Savannah Rose Siejka, while they were parked in a car.

The witness “stated she observed Kurtin … grabbing her head and striking it against the dashboard of the vehicle,” and also saw Siejka with her hands raised, “trying to avoid getting hit by Kurtin.”

When police officers tracked the pair down later that evening, Siejka told them there had been a “verbal altercation” but that “she was fine and nothing else happened.” Officers reported observing a “small bump” on her forehead, which Siejka said was a pimple, as well as a second small bump to her upper left eye.

Kurtin denied to police that he had physically assaulted Siejka, according to the affidavit, but said he “pushed her arm away” when she had tried to grab his phone. He was arrested based on the witness statement and the marks officers observed on Siejka’s head.

“I want to thank the Miami Beach police who acted appropriately at the time and did their job as police officers,” Kurtin said in the Friday morning statement. “Domestic violence is a problem in our society and should not be tolerated. Florida has put in place among the strictest mandatory arrest laws in the country to allow time to protect victims and diligence the circumstances. I thank the police officers again for their unwavering commitment to upholding the law and protecting the lives of many.

Lastly, I would like to personally thank all who helped me get through this difficult event. I am profoundly grateful for those who supported me and were patient with the due process of law.”

This article has been updated.

Adam Jackson

Adam Jackson writes about the cannabis industry for the Green Market Report. He previously covered the Missouri Statehouse for the Columbia Missourian and has written for the Missouri Independent. He most recently covered retail, restaurants and other consumer companies for Bloomberg Business News. You can find him on Twitter at @adam_sjackson and email him at adam.jackson@crain.com.

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