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|More lawsuits to be filed against city in Eagle raid?|
|by Dyana Bagby|
|July 11, 2011 16:30|
An attorney representing a former bartender at the Atlanta Eagle says he plans to file a lawsuit on his client's behalf for false arrest and prosecution without probable cause.
Chris Lopez, who was a bartender the night the Atlanta Police Department raided the gay Midtown bar on Sept. 10, 2009, and was one of the eight people arrested, filed a complaint with the city's Municipal Clerk on Dec. 7, 2010, seeking $250,000 for "false arrest, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution."
Lopez filed the complaint as the city settled for more than $1 million with patrons of the bar who sued the city in federal civil court saying their constitutional rights were violated.
When the city's scathing reports describing numerous illegal actions — illegal search and seizures, lying under oath, destroying evidence — made by APD officers during and after the raid were released last month, Lopez's attorney said legal action against the city is now likely.
"We do feel that the reports that were issued last week support Mr. Lopez's claims, namely, that he was arrested without probable cause and subjected to prosecution with malice and without probable cause," said attorney Bill Atkins.
"We expect to file a lawsuit on Mr. Lopez's behalf in the coming weeks," he added.
APD's Vice Unit was sent in to investigation of illegal sex taking place in the bar. No arrests for sex or drugs were made the night of the raid.
However, eight employees, including Lopez, were arrested and charged with permit violations because police said the bar was not registered as an adult establishment. Lopez eventually had his charges dismissed.
However, Atkins said the bar was never registered as an adult entertainment establishment.
"The allegations of sexual activities at The Eagle ― if true ― would not qualify it as an Adult Entertainment Establishment, but as a place where illegal sexual activities was taking place. In short, Mr. Lopez did not need a license to work at The Eagle and, as a result, there was no probable cause to arrest him for working there without an adult entertainment license," Atkins said.
Lopez declined to be interviewed for this story.
Eagle attorney says city APD not complying with settlement orders
Lead Eagle attorney Dan Grossman is also saying he is ready to take the city back to court because it is not following through with mandatory reforms the APD were to undertake as part of the federal civil suit settlement.
The changes required, according to the settlement agreement, include having citizen complaints against police officers completed within 180 days and that officers wear visible name badges and also identify themselves when asked by a citizen.
Officers are also required, according to the settlement, to document ID checks and when they frisk someone by filling out forms.
“Zero have been done since the December settlement,” Grossman said.
“No officer has been trained on the Fourth Amendment since the Dec. 8, 2010 settlement. They've not even started. This is a failure to comply,” Grossman added.
Grossman said the plaintiffs specifically wanted officers to ID themselves if requested by citizens. However, the APD is apparently now saying that it can't comply with this mandate because it may be unsafe for officers. Grossman disagrees with this argument because plenty of other cities require officers to identify themselves when asked by a citizen.
“They agreed to do it. They could have argued,” Grossman said. “We kept our end of the deal, they need to keep their end of the deal. Seven months later they are now saying they do not have to do what they promised to do,” he added.
Supervisor of Eagle raid retires as major
The APD announced last week that Debra Williams, who was the supervisor of the Vice Unit and the Red Dog Unit when they conducted the botched raid on the Atlanta Eagle almost two years ago, was demoted to lieutenant after the city's investigations into the raid were released last month.
However, Williams retired as a major before the demotion went into effect as she had the right to do, explained APD spokesperson Carlos Campos.
The APD issued a press release June 30 stating she was demoted from major to lieutenant after the two devastating investigations of the raid on the Midtown gay bar were released on June 28. The press release made it appear the demotion went into effect immediately. However, that wasn't the case.
"Debra Williams' demotion to lieutenant was to be effective on Thursday, July 7th. On Wednesday, July 6th, Williams chose to retire. Her rank at the time of retirement was major," Campos said in an email on Friday.
Campos explained that an officer's pension is based on the average of the highest three years of his or her salary. Even if Williams had stayed on the force as a lieutenant, her pension would be based on her salary as a major, he said.
Because she retired before 30 years, she was docked a certain percentage of her retirement due to an age clause, Campos added.
In an interview July 5 , Mayor Kasim Reed cited Williams' demotion as proof that the APD was taking the investigation results seriously.
"That is a severe demotion and has not been customary in the city of Atlanta. We are taking swift action. We are going to do more. It is a beginning, not an ending," Reed told the GA Voice.
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