Update from Reese McCranie, spokesperson for Mayor Kasim Reed:
"The new lawsuit claims that every named plaintiff was subjected to improper treatment, including persons the City cannot confirm were actually present at the Eagle during the time of the operation. At this preliminary stage of the lawsuit, the City has not had an opportunity to interview these new plaintiffs and confirm their presence, so the City had no choice but to deny those allegations at this point. Had these new plaintiffs joined in the original Calhoun lawsuit instead of waiting for the outcome of that case before coming forward, the City would have been able to confirm their presence and include them in the previous settlement."
The city of Atlanta denies police officers violated the constitutional rights of patrons when the Vice Unit and the now disbanded Red Dog Unit raided the gay Midtown bar the Atlanta Eagle two years ago. The denial comes in the form of a response to the second lawsuit filed over the botched raid bar on Sept. 10, 2009.
"City defendants assert that they took no action to deprive plaintiff's of any right, privilege, freedom or immunity secured by the Constitution" and the laws of Georgia and Atlanta, reads the response filed in U.S. District Court on Thursday, Oct. 6 — the day before Atlanta Pride kicks off.
The city's answer also states, "Insofar as Plaintiffs have been affected by the conduct of City Defendants, their actions were reasonable, proper, and necessary" and that the plaintiff's allegations "do not establish a constitutional violation."
While the second lawsuit by the 10 men who were in the bar the night it was raided was filed in Fulton County Superior Court, the city filed a motion to remove the lawsuit from that court and have it moved to federal court where the response was filed.
"I'm stunned" by the response, said attorney Dan Grossman, who is representing the 10 Eagle plaintiffs along with Gerry Weber. Grossman was the lead attorney in the first Eagle lawsuit that resulted in the city settling with 28 plaintiffs in December 2010 for more than $1 million.
Grossman said he is "stunned" because two in-depth investigations — one by the APD's Office of Professional Standards as well as an independent investigation by former U.S. Attorney Joe Whitley of the law firm Greenberg Traurig — showed that officers violated the constitutional rights of the patrons who were searched and detained in the first lawsuit.
And while the first settlement signed by U.S. District Judge Timothy Batten states, "Plaintiffs [were] unlawfully searched, detained, and/or arrested on September 10-11, 2009, at the Atlanta Eagle in Atlanta, Georgia, and that none of the Plaintiffs [were] personally suspected of any criminal activity," Batten did add, "This finding has no preclusive effect as to any other person or entity not a party to this litigation." Read Judge Batten's ruling in the original lawsuit here.
Mayor Kasim Reed, a defendant in the second Eagle lawsuit, said in July after the two investigations were released that he was "shocked" by their findings.
"My reaction [to the reports] is that this is terrible and I'm going to take whatever steps necessary to make sure this never happens in the city of Atlanta again," Reed said.
"This happened before I was elected mayor. I've taken this extremely seriously. I began looking at this very quickly when I became mayor. I made the decision to settle after looking at details and going over the case on my own, being informed myself," he added.
"As I've said repeatedly, I believe the LGBT community is a vital part of Atlanta and I think the community contributes greatly to what makes this city special and I'm not going to have a police department that does not understand how important this is to me," Reed said.
Two reports state APD did commit wrongdoing during Atlanta Eagle raid
Like in the first federal lawsuit against the city, the second Eagle lawsuit alleges police officers treated the patrons roughly while searching them and detaining them without probable cause, a violation of their Constitutional rights. Officers also used anti-gay slurs against the patrons, according to many patrons in the bar that night.
However, the city is apparently backing away from what was found in the two reports and states in its response to the second lawsuit that "If any plaintiff was, in fact, detained, said detention was reasonable" and that the plaintiffs "who were, in fact detained, were, or were about to be, engaged in criminal activity."
No mention of the investigations are included in the city's response to the second Eagle lawsuit.
The city is representing these defendants named in the lawsuit: Mayor Kasim Reed,
Willie Adams, Bennie Bridges, John Brock, Craig Codon, Christopher Dowd, Robert Godwin, Dimitri Jacques, Dion Meredith, Marlon Noble, Darnell Perry, William Porter, Stephanie Upton and William Brian Walters.
The defendants include these former officers:
• Willie Adams — fired for "lack of truthfulness" in the Eagle raid investigations
• Bennie Bridges (who was fired after the two scathing investigations conducted by the city were released showing officers did not follow procedure during the raid. Bridges was also arrested for possession of marijuana and speeding in a city vehicle in Cobb County).
• John Brock, who made anti-gay comments during the investigation into the raid by Greenberg Traurig.
In the investigation, Brock, who was a key player in organizing the raid, said he forced patrons to the floor because he believed there was violence associated with being in a leather bar:
"There's a risk factor involved when you're dealing with people you don't know anything about. S&M, that — that has a stigma of some violence," Brock said, according to the report.
In the Greenberg Traurig interview with Brock, he said he believed gay people were more violent.
"In the past I have as a patrol officer handled calls where there are gay couples living in residence where one is mad at the other, and they slash clothes, furniture, anything they can do. They’re very violent. So, no. I definitely do think there was a high risk there. I think the only safe way -- and I think you’re getting towards why I had everybody put on the ground," Brock said.
When asked if Brock thought gay people are more violent than other citizens, Brock responded that they are.
"My experience, yes. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, when they’re -- when they get mad, they get really mad. So ...," Brock said.
The raid was conducted after two complaints were made to the city about alleged illegal sex and drug activity taking place in the bar, however no one was arrested for sex or drugs.
Fired officer says he needed 'psychiatric help' after allegedly seeing gay sex in bar
In a transcript of an interview conducted by Greenberg Traurig of John Brock on May 17, the former Atlanta police officer said there was no intelligence received that there were weapons in the bar although everyone was frisked and searched.
"We determined to put everyone down to be safe. That's about it. I mean, it's just — we had no intelligence there were weapons, but we had our weapons."
After asked if the patrons were involved in illegal activity, Brock said no.
"I guess they weren't unless they were involved in sexual activity, but there was no activity that night," Brock said.
Brock went on to say in his deposition that before visiting the bar for the first time on in May 2009 as part of undercover operation to investigate the allegations of illegal sex on what was known as "Underwear Night," officers were briefed about what they may see in a gay leather bar filled with "big, hairy men."
"But, like I said, seeing it in — on — in writing and actually seeing it in person shocked the hell out of me, to be honest with you. And I don't know why we didn't all go get freaking psychiatric help. We probably should have…"
Brock added, "Everybody has a little phobia about that, but nobody wants to do that."
The city settled with eight plaintiffs in another Eagle lawsuit on Oct. 3 for $120,000 and one other lawsuit is also pending, filed by former Atlanta Eagle bartender Chris Lopez.
A town hall forum hosted by the Atlanta Police LGBT Advisory Board with Mayor Reed and Chief George Turner is scheduled for Nov. 1 at St. Mark United Methodist Church.