The former owner of a now closed Kennewick gym pleaded innocent Thursday to theft charges, and now faces trial.

A trial date of May 14th was set after Judge Craig Matheson denied Jason Ray Sleater's attorneys allegation that because employees of the Prosecuting Attorney's office were former clients at his gym they influenced the decision to prosecute him.   3 of the estimated 300 former members who were affected work in the office, but officials said they are, nor have ever been, in a position to influence that or any other case.   Sleater is accused of defauding former gym members by charging an unauthorized facilities upkeep or upgrade fee to their automated billing acounts, bringing in nearly $8,000.  He then abruptly closed 509 Fitness March 21, 2011.   Clients who showed up early that morning saw signs posted on the door saying the gym was closing to not being able to compete with other facilities in the Tri Cities.   Members were told they could receive refunds from the company that handled automated dues billing, but no recourse was given for the additional fee charged by Sleater.  Numerous other members who paid monthly, or with cash, also lost their investments.  Sleater's attorney has filed other motions seeking to dismiss the charges on grounds of what he called selective prosecution.

More From 870 AM KFLD