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Actual’s new CEO breaks silence amid sexual assault investigation

614now Staff

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Update: The new Actual Brewing CEO has broken the silence since the former CEO has stepped down amid several sexual assault allegations.

“Though we have been quiet online today, we have not been ignoring your voices, words, and thoughts,” wrote new CEO Nicole Felter.

Felter goes on to attempt to separate Actual from the owner and man accused, Fred Lee.

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“Mr. Lee no longer has any role with the company, and we have begun the process of removing him from his minority ownership position. Actual Brewing is and has always been about more than one person. It consists of over 35 wonderful, hard-working, and innocent individuals. The brewery was built and supported by many good people over many years. Dozens of people are currently involved with the brewery as employees and investors, and we are committed to preserving the brand, the product, and our dedication to brewing excellent beer for our customers.”

Twice, Felter acknowledged the severity of the claims lodged against Lee and said she,her employees, and investors are “prepared to cooperate in any official investigation that may be undertaken.”

Felter closed by saying the brand is committed to supporting women and promising to continue Actual’s mission to produce “premium” beer and embrace the “scientific and independent spirit” that inspires them.


02/6/2018: Amid a sea of sexual assault accusations, Actual Brewing owner Fred Lee will be stepping down as CEO, effective immediately, though he maintains his innocence.

Columbus Alive broke the story today with key accounts from accuser and former Actual employee Natalie Phillips.

Phillips told Alive that Lee began assaulting her in late summer 2018, soon after she accepted a sales rep position. She said they were out celebrating with food and drinks. They ended up back at the east side brewery where she retired to what the employees dubbed the “sleep it off” room. She said she woke up in the middle of the night with Lee on top of her, his hand down her pants.

She was able to ward him off.

The next alleged incident happened in September 2018 when Phillips was finalizing her paperwork at Actual. Lee suggested another celebration with a group of people. Phillips obliged. The group enjoyed drinks over dinner and then afterwards at a bar. Phillips next recollection of the night was Lee on top of her, having sex with her inside the Actual taproom.

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Phillips blamed herself for what happened, reports Alive. As a single mother, she stayed with Actual so that she could provide for her daughter.

A third incident happened while the two were traveling in her vehicle on October 11. Alive reports Lee’s wife, Mira, had asked that Phillips give him a ride home. While stuck in rush hour traffic, Phillips told Alive that Lee started rubbing between her legs and showing his penis.

On Monday, Oct. 15, Phillips said she reported the assaults to a co-worker at Actual, who elevated it to head brewery and de facto chief operating officer Chris Moore, reports Alive. Moore then met with Phillips to confirm the allegations before filing a formal complaint to Actual’s advisory board, which includes John Estep and Kyle Andrews, and Lee. Alive reports Estep and Andrews unsuccessfully tried to oust Lee from the brewery. In support of Phillips, Moore, who started at Actual in September 2013, resigned from the company.

Lee’s attorney, provided this email statement to Alive:

“Fred Lee denies that he forced himself upon anyone at any time,” Settina wrote. “The claims leveled against Fred are unfounded and dubious at best. If anyone has such a claim, let them come forward to defend that accusation in a court of law.”

Phillips is one of eight women who spoke with Alive about how they have been victimized by Lee’s assault and/or harassment. Alive also talked with three representatives of companies that Actual used to work with, but have since ceased because of Lee’s behavior (Yellow Brick Pizza and Hills Market Downtown to name a few), four former Actual employees who have witnessed Lee’s behavior, and 10 people who were told about Lee’s behavior directly from his accusers.

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Actual’s advisory board said it is conducting an investigation into the allegations. In a staff-wide email, Lee’s wife and Actual co-owner Mira Lee announced that Lee would be stepping down as CEO “out of concern for the impact that the accusations and investigation will surely have on livelihoods and day-to-day responsibilities of our 37 team members. […] while the bulk of these claims are entirely unsubstantiated, we have to listen when people tell us that the corporate culture of Actual Brewing has not been comfortable and welcoming to everyone,”

Lee’s attorney provided this statement in response to Alive’s request for comment on the staff email:

“It should be made clear, Mr. Lee is only stepping down to focus his effort on defending his reputation against the false and scurrilous accusations leveled against him. The decision to step down during this time is in no way an admission of guilt to any accusation of sexual assault or harassment.”

Nicole Felter will be taking over as acting CEO of the brewery while Lee will maintain ownership. Lee opened Actual in 2012.

For more details and accounts of Lee’s sexual abuse, visit Columbusalive.com.

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Advancements in genealogy testing, podcast help bring closure to ‘82 cold case

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Photo by Zak Kolesar

Recent advancements in genealogy testing may be the much-needed push to close the thousands of cold cases that exist in Ohio. The recent closure to a 1982 Columbus homicide provides hope.

On Friday, the Columbus Division of Police announced the resolution of “one of CPD’s most intense investigations” at the Kimberley K. Jacobs Neighborhood Policing Center. 

Those in attendance at the conference included Sgt. Terry McConnell; Det. Dana Croom; Deputy Chief Tim Becker; director of the CPD Forensic Crime Lab Angela Farrington; Hallie Dreyer of the BCI Forensic Crime Lab; Ofc. Greg Colarich; director at AdvanceDNA Amanda Reno; Sheriff Dallas Baldwin; Deputy Chief Greg Bodker.

Genetic genealogy testing and further police research played a crucial role in bringing some closure to the sexual assault and murder of 8-year-old Kelly Ann Prosser. Prosser was abducted while walking home from Indianola Elementary School on Sept. 20, 1982. The case was also recently brought to the public’s attention in part due to The 5th Floor–a podcast started by CPC dedicated to unearthing and closing cold cases. 

After someone came across her raincoat, her body was traced to and discovered in a Madison County cornfield along A.W. Wilson Rd. on Sept. 22. 

Over the next 38 years–with the unending support of Prosser’s family, thousands of hours of detective and police work, and a recent partnership with Advanced DNA–there is finally some closure to the ‘82 cold case.

Bodker mentioned that research into DNA evidence drastically improved around 2014 and ‘15. In March of this year, the CPD partnered with AdvancedDNA. It used to take months for DNA tests to come back; now law enforcement can now get results in a couple of weeks. The law enforcement services they utilized through AdvancedDNA were GenMatch and Family Tree DNA.

“Imagine in 1982 collecting something that you know one day wouldn’t exist,” Bodker said.

As of Friday, it can “positively and conclusively” be said that the killer was Harold Warren Jarrell. Jarrell is deceased and DNA from a third cousin was obtained to solve Prosser’s murder. Previously, 23 persons of interest were investigated and cleared in the case.

In 1977, Jarrell was charged with abducting an 8-year-old from Tamarack Circle on the northside of Columbus. He was released in January 1982.

Prosser’s family wasn’t in attendance because they “thought it was too soon,” but the family did provide a statement at the press conference that was read by McConnell. The statement included praise to the Columbus Division of Police homicide detectives and the advanced DNA investigative techniques. The statement also provided glimpses into the life of a promising, sweet, young girl.

Photo by Zak Kolesar

“One moment we had this dazzling, mischievous 8-year-old little girl. Then suddenly all we had left were memories, photographs that will never age, a calendar marking a dreadful new ‘holiday,’ a grave, and pieces of Kelly’s life stored in a box.”

A statement from Prosser's family read on Friday by McConnell


Prosser’s mom had stayed close to the investigation all these years, even sending notes to the police department with pictures of Kelly.

The future does look bright for genealogical testing and its importance in solving cold cases. Right now, there is a case that the CPD is investigating using this knowledge. The police are also in the middle of a project to identify as many other cases as possible for this type of testing.

“We are pursuing those cases with the same vigor we pursued this case,” Booker said. “We are hunting you, and when we get the tools to hunt you, we’ll bring you to justice.”

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Columbus firefighter on leave after attempting sexual conduct with teen

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A Columbus firefighter is being charged with attempted sexual conduct with a minor.

According to court documents per 10TV, 54-year-old Walter Lash is on leave without pay following conduct involving a 15-year-old girl on Feb. 26.

Columbus Fire Battalion Chief Steve Martin released a statement to 10TV on the charge:

“We have been aware of the charges against Lash. This is devastating to the division and is in no way representative of the values that define us as public servants. Lash will be afforded due process in court as anyone would be and then will face appropriate actions by the division of fire.”

Lash being held at the Franklin County Jail, and is due to be arraigned on Thursday.

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2 former OSU football players facing rape, kidnapping charges

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Two Ohio State University football players have been arrested and charged with rape and kidnapping.

Amir I. Riep, 21, and Jahsen L. Wint, 21, were charged late Tuesday by Columbus police and are scheduled to be arraigned Thursday morning in Franklin County Municipal Court, reports Columbus Dispatch.

The incident is alleged to have occurred the evening of Feb. 4 at the apartment Riep and Wint share on Sawmill Place Boulevard.

The two men have been dismissed from the Ohio State football team.

To read more from the affidavit filed by Columbus police about the alleged incident, visit The Dispatch.

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