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Face of Best Burger recently released from jail


John Cartisser of Gresham served 30 days for violating his probation on a 2010 conviction for first-degree attempted sex abuse

A local business man who gained accolades for his successful burger cart in Rockwood and now a thriving brick-and-mortar restaurant was recently jailed for violating his probation on a 2010 attempted sex abuse conviction.

John David Cartisser, 45, of Gresham, served a 30-day jail sanction from Dec. 21, 2012, to Jan. 25. Multnomah County District Court Judge Adrienne Nelson also ordered Cartisser to undergo 60 days of electronic monitoring so probation officials know where he is at all times, said Deputy District Attorney Nathan Vasquez. John David Cartisser

Cartisser violated his probation by not telling his probation officer that he was changing employment, by being in a bar/tavern and by consuming alcohol, said David Austin, Multnomah County communications director.

In November, he closed his Best Burger food cart near 185th Avenue and Stark Street and opened up a sit-down restaurant at 17527 Southeast Stark Street without notifying his probation officer.

At issue are the terms of Cartisser's five years of probation stemming from a Nov. 15, 2010, conviction of first-degree attempted sex abuse. Cartisser was arrested on June 8, 2010, and accused of three counts of first-degee sex abuse involving a girl who was 5 and 6 years old during the nearly year-and-a-half when the alleged abuse took place between Oct. 5, 2008, and Feb. 18, 2010.

Cartisser pleaded no contest to one count of first-degree attempted sex abuse and the other two counts were dismissed.

His probation includes general conditions that must be followed during his 5-year probationary period, as well as special conditions he must adhere to as a registered sex offender.

Ironically, it was the success of his food cart and the move to a brick-and-mortar structure that caused him to violate his probation.

Cartisser found himself in the media spotlight after he set up one of Gresham's first food carts in the Rockwood area in the summer of 2011. His burgers were such a hit, he opened a sit-down restaurant 10 blocks west at 17527 Southeast Stark Street last November.

A photo of Cartisser and one of his best burgers appeared on the front page of the Tuesday, Jan. 29, issue of The Outlook when readers voted the restaurant as having the best burgers in the newspaper's annual Readers' Choice competition.

Just four days earlier, he was being released from jail for violating his probation.

In addition to not notifying his probation officer about his business changing locations, Cartisser consumed alcohol and frequented a bar or tavern — both of which are violations of his probation, Austin said.

Because Cartisser is not allowed in bars or taverns, and can't have any contact with children, "he cannot go into the restaurant," without violating his probation, Austin said.

Best Burger does not serve alcohol, but it shares a building with Wok's Up, which does.

Wok's Up also boasts an indoor beach volleyball court that is popular with teens and other minors, said Heidi Moawad, a deputy district attorney.

Cartisser's probation states that he can't work anywhere that involves contact with minors.

He's also to have no contact with children, and according to the restaurant's website, Best Burger has a kid's menu.

As for how his probation violation is affecting the restaurant, “I've stepped back from the business,” Cartisser said. Although he's been described as Best Burger's owner in multiple newspaper articles, Cartisser said his wife Karin is the owner. They also have business partners. “I've been the face of the business and the operator,” he said.

His aproned image with the words “gourmet street food” appears on the restaurant's business card.

Criminal history “extremely concerning”

Vasquez, the deputy district attorney, described Cartisser's criminal history as “extremely concerning.”

According to court records, prior to Cartisser's 2010 attempted sex abuse conviction, Cartisser pleaded guilty in 2004 on two counts of third-degree sex abuse involving a 16-year-old girl who was living in his home with him and his first wife in 2003. “During the time of these allegations, two other children, ages 7 and 8, also accused him of touching them in a sexual manner,” states a court document arguing against lowering Cartisser's $750,000 bail in 2010. A grand jury did not indict Cartisser for those allegations.

Cartisser also was convicted in 2001 of soliciting a prostitute.

On Oct. 13, 2000, Cartisser drove up to who he thought was a female prostitute and offered to pay her for sexual contact. The woman, however, was an undercover police officer.

When reached by phone for comment on the article, Cartisser said “obviously this is a very touchy subject,” adding that the past two years have been very difficult for his family.

He has a son and a daughter from a prior marriage. He also has a teenage stepson, a daughter and a son from his current marriage.

Cartisser said the 2010 allegations were part of an “ugly custody battle,” adding that he is not guilty of attempted sex abuse.

Then why did he plead no-contest to it?

“That was the best choice for me at the time for my family,” Cartisser said. Just before his trial was to start, the prosecutor suddenly offered a plea deal: Five years of probation in exchange for pleading no contest to attempted sex abuse. He would be free to go home that same day.

After sitting in jail for five months with a public defender telling him that he could get 12 to 18 years in prison if convicted at trial, an opportunity to go home to his family was too good to pass up, Cartisser said.

“Since then we've been rebuilding our lives and giving back to the community,” he said. “And I'm proud of that.”

The restaurant donated part of its proceeds from the Ranger Burger to the USS Ranger Foundation during its quest to bring a decommissioned air craft carrier to Fairview. Cartisser served in the Navy from 1988 to 1992.

He has support from his wife, extended family and his church community at Greater Gresham Baptist Church. In fact, in 2010, the court received eight letters from friends and family asking that Cartisser's bail be lowered so he could get out of jail before his trial. A total of 36 people also signed a petition that was submitted to the court in hope of Cartisser being granted pre-trial release.

“He is anxious to clear his name and needs to be earning money for the support of his family and the added expenses that the trial to clear his name will cost,” reads the petition.

Cartisser said he's proud that he didn't let his criminal conviction define him or prevent him from building a successful business.

“My character speaks for itself,” he said. “I didn't go hide in a corner somewhere. There's nothing to hide about.

“I am not ashamed of my life and where I'm at and where I've come from. People can look at me cross-eyed, but I know what happened — nothing.”