Opening statements in gym "enhancement fee" trial - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Opening statements in gym "enhancement fee" trial

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KENNEWICK, Wash., -- Attorneys read opening statements this morning in Benton County Superior Court for the man accused of stealing from more than 300 Tri-Cities gym members.

Jason Sleater is accused of charging an "enhancement fee" of $19.60 to 375 gym members before closing the 509 Fitness club in March of last year.

The state is out to prove Sleater did not include the fee in members' contracts and is guilty of theft.

Sleater's defense says the case should be civil not criminal and only became criminal after a Kennewick police officer was kicked out of the gym for verbally attacking Sleater and co-owner, Jeremy Appleby.

"What the line officers decided did not need to be investigated became a full blown criminal investigation," says Sleater's defense attorney Scott Johnson.  "Going from the Sergeant, to an experienced detective, referred up to the Benton County Prosecutor's Office and now eight felony charges."

Sleater faces eight felony theft charges.