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|Eagle attorneys: City ignores destroyed, missing evidence in lawsuit over gay bar raid|
|Written by Laura Douglas-Brown|
|Monday, 01 November 2010 17:48|
A week after the city of Atlanta filed a legal brief defending its handling of documents related to the controversial September 2009 police raid on the Atlanta Eagle, attorneys for plaintiffs in the gay bar the night of the incident fired back, claiming the city makes "no specific or meaningful attempt to explain or rebut the most serious allegations."
Patrons and staff of the Atlanta Eagle are suing the city in federal court after the botched raid, and have recently asserted that the city is not providing the information they have requested in the lawsuit's discovery phase. The Atlanta Police Department's Red Dog unit has been accused of illegally detaining the staff and patrons, searching them without warrants and using anti-gay slurs during the raid. The plaintiffs are represented by attorney Dan Grossman and attorneys with Lambda Legal and the Southern Center for Human Rights.
According to the response brief filed Nov. 1 by the plaintiffs, the following "serious matters were left largely unaddressed" by the city's recent response: "(A) the deliberate spoliation of mobile phone data; (B) the City’s continued overwriting of computer backup tapes after the Court’s order that they be produced; (C) the Defendants’ failure to produce complete Microsoft Exchange email archives; (D) the disappearance of Special Enforcement Section minutes about the Raid; and (E) the failure to respond to Plaintiffs’ Second Request for Production."
In a 42-page brief filed Oct. 22, attorneys for the city had defended their handling of the case. "The defendants first respond to the plaintiff's motion to compel by stating that despite the protestations and overwrought demands, that all of the reasonably relevant documents to which the plaintiffs would be entitled ... have been produced or offered for production," the city's motion stated.
The city's filing came a day after Mayor Kasim Reed addressed the Atlanta Executive Network, a gay business organization, and in a frank discussion with attendees promised an investigation into the allegations of destruction of evidence and that if the allegations were true punishment would be swift. Reed also said at the AEN meeting that he would make an important announcement concerning the Atlanta Eagle raid within a week.
On Oct. 28, Reed announced the formation of a "Blue Ribbon Panel," with members including several gay attorneys, with the goal of bringing the federal lawsuit to "resolution."
In the Nov. 1 filing, the plaintiffs attorneys continued their assertion that the city has not done enough to provide the information they have requested in the lawsuit, including alleging that police officers intentionally deleted text messages and photos of the raid from their cell phones.
"The principle “defenses” offered by the Response seem to be that (A) Defendants – two weeks after the filing of the Plaintiffs’ motion – produced additional items; (B) the Plaintiffs’ site visits to [the Atlanta Police Department] fully satisfied Defendants’ own burden to search for and produce responsive items; (C) Plaintiffs did not engage in good faith efforts to resolve discovery disputes; (D) the discovery violations are the fault of two attorneys who are no longer with the City Attorney’s office; and (E) Defendants should not be made to pay for forensic examination of electronic data," the motion from the plaintiffs states.
"Each of these purported justifications is either factually inaccurate or legally incorrect," the plaintiffs argue. "Nothing in the Response refutes the basic points made by Plaintiffs: that Defendants should be ordered to provide Plaintiffs with the tangible items and interrogatory responses to which they are entitled."
The 43-page brief outlines specific allegations of missing information, and asks the judge in the case to issue an order requiring the city to produce it.
"The Defendants’ refusal to follow this Court’s simplest instructions, and their frequent misleading statements to the Court, suggest that nothing but the strongest order will compel them to comply with discovery," the brief concludes.
Top photo: Supporters of the Atlanta Eagle gathered at the bar Sept. 9 to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Atlanta Police raid that has sparked multiple complaints and a federal lawsuit. (by Dyana Bagby)
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