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|Atlanta Eagle raid investigation extended another 21 days|
|by Dyana Bagby|
|June 02, 2011 13:55|
A court-mandated investigation into the Atlanta Eagle raid was to be finished next week, but a federal judge agreed to a 21-day extension with the caveat that all materials in the investigation, including transcripts with police officers and bar patrons as well as information on officers' conduct, be made public.
According to court documents filed June 1, the investigation into the Eagle raid by the Atlanta Police Department and private law firm Greenberg Traurig have until June 27 to finish the investigation that has supposedly been ongoing since the days following the police raid of the gay leather bar on Sept. 10, 2009.
The city of Atlanta settled a federal lawsuit in December for $1.025 million. As part of the settlement, the city was ordered to conduct a thorough investigation into the raid within six months, with the original date for the completion of the investigation set for Monday, June 6. The city hired Greenberg Traurig to conduct the court-mandated investigation in March with former U.S. Attorney Joe Whitley heading it up.
U.S. Judge Timothy Batten, who ruled the police raid was unconstitutional in December, agreed to give the city a 21-day extension after the city and lead attorney for the plaintiffs, Dan Grossman, agreed.
“Both parties further agree that the extension is merited and will be beneficial to both parties, as well as the public,” court documents state.
Grossman, who said last week the city was “scrambling” to complete the nearly two-year-old investigation, said today he is now “hopeful.”
“Greenberg Traurig seems to understand the issues and I’m hopeful how the investigation will turn out,” he said.
As part of the extension of the investigation, the city agreed to make many documents available to the public once the investigation is completed. The June 1 court documents state:
“In consideration of this extension, the City of Atlanta agrees that the report prepared by Greenberg Traurig, in addition to the report prepared by the Atlanta Police Department, regarding the individual conduct of the officers involved in the planning, execution, and aftermath of the Eagle Raid and any proceeding arising therefrom (including the above-styled action) will be a public record, along with:
(A) all transcripts of interviews conducted by Greenberg Traurig and the Atlanta Police Department;
Greenberg Traurig was calling for witnesses of the raid to be interviewed over Memorial Day weekend, upsetting at least one person who asked to remain anonymous.
The man, who was in the Atlanta Eagle the night it was raided but was not a plaintiff in the federal lawsuit against the city, received a letter from Greenberg Traurig on Thursday, May 26, saying interviews would be conducted between Wednesday, May 25, and Wednesday, June 1.
“The letter states that the law firm and the City are making a special effort to avoid inconveniencing witnesses and that scheduling has been designed to be as ‘non-intrusive to witnesses' schedules as possible,’” he said.
“However, it also states that the interviews must be conducted before Wednesday, June 1 and did not arrive until Thursday afternoon — though dated a day earlier. Like most people, I am buried at work the day before a holiday weekend and equally buried the day after returning from a holiday — making it very difficult to rearrange my work schedule on such short notice.,” he said.
“Likewise, the invitation was sent 1 1/2 days before a holiday weekend. This all makes me wonder whether the letters were sent out and the interviews were timed in order to make it as difficult as possible for witnesses to cooperate in this important investigation. The incident happened 18 months ago. I cannot understand why this important investigation is being handled so poorly,” he added.
Reese McCranie, spokesperson for Mayor Kasim Reed, said the timing of the interviews would have to be addressed by Greenberg Traurig. McCranie also said the mayor wanted a thorough investigation into the matter and trusted the law firm to do so.
Greenberg Traurig’s spokesperson Lourdes Martinez, based in Miami, said on Wednesday the firm is “governed by client confidentiality obligations” and provided no answers why the firm seemed to wait until the last minute to conduct interviews with witnesses.
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