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|More lawsuits filed against city of Atlanta for raid on gay bar|
|by Dyana Bagby|
|September 16, 2011 00:00|
Ten patrons of the Atlanta Eagle are suing Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and 25 police officers in Fulton County Superior Court, arguing their rights were violated during the botched raid on the gay bar. They allege many of the same offenses in the original lawsuit filed in November 2009, shortly after the raid occurred on Sept. 10, 2009.
Eight other men in the bar the night it was raided settled with the city Sept. 8 for an undisclosed amount of money. The Atlanta City Council will have to approve the settlement and at that time the amount will be made public.
Represented by attorneys Dan Grossman and Gerry Weber, the plaintiffs in the new lawsuit accuse the officers of violating the Fourth and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution protecting people from illegal search and seizures. The lawsuit was filed Sept. 8.
Like the plaintiffs in the first lawsuit, the plaintiffs in this lawsuit spell out how they were forced to the floor and some had to lay in spilled beer and broken glass while officers, including members of the now defunct paramilitary Red Dog squad, stepped on their backs, told them to “shut the fuck up” whenever a person questioned what was happening and then frisked them. There were also alleged anti-gay slurs hurled at the men.
“The individual defendants, with malice and oppression, falsely imprisoned and/or combined and conspired to falsely imprison the plaintiffs and did so under color of legal process,” according to the lawsuit.
The plaintiffs also accuse the defendants of assault and are seeking a jury trial.
In December, the city of Atlanta settled the first lawsuit for more than $1 million with 19 plaintiffs who were in the Eagle the night of the raid and accused the city and individual officers of many of the same offenses. The first lawsuit was filed in federal court. In accepting the settlement, the federal judge, Timothy Baten, deemed the raid “unconstitutional.”
The second lawsuit, filed just before the two-year statute of limitations expired, mentions the two investigations conducted by the city into the Eagle raid — one by the Atlanta Police Department’s Office of Professional Standards and an independent investigation conducted by Greenberg Traurig and headed up by former U.S. Attorney Joe Whitley.
Both investigations concluded the Atlanta Police officers involved in the raid did not follow procedure and violated the rights of the plaintiffs. Six officers were fired and 14 others disciplined after the investigations came to light.
Mayor, Eagle attorney face off over new case
In a press release from the city of Atlanta issued late Sept. 13, Mayor Kasim Reed said “it is time to bring the painful episode of the past to an end.”
The press release also bullet points several policies the city has implemented due to the fallout of the raid to ensure such a raid never happens again. It also reiterates the raid occurred before Reed took office in January 2010.
The city said settling the first lawsuit, disbanding the Red Dog Unit, firing six officers, and releasing the in-depth investigations were part of good faith efforts to heal the pain and anger some LGBT residents feel.
“Mayor Reed and the City of Atlanta have worked diligently to bring this dispute to a conclusion and move beyond the events of the past. However, constant litigation continues to overshadow the significant reforms that have already begun at the Atlanta Police Department,” the release from the city stated.
The city also takes aim at Grossman and Weber in the press release, stating, “Despite Mr. Grossman’s public statements that the original lawsuit was never about money, he and Mr. Weber now suggest the City ‘forced’ additional individuals to file suit in order to receive ‘fair compensation.’ That suggestion is incorrect. In fact, after good faith negotiations with the City, eight of their new clients recently agreed to a settlement, and the City attempted to settle with the remaining plaintiffs.”
Grossman did not hold back in his response to what he says are the city’s and mayor’s attempts to take credit for changes in the APD that were actually implemented as part of the mandates of the original lawsuit. Reed should beg for forgiveness from city and the gay community, Grossman said.
“Every concession to which Mayor Reed agreed, from conducting an independent investigation in the first place, to releasing it to the public, to requiring constitutional law training for Atlanta police officers, was forced upon him by a dedicated team of lawyers who worked for over a year to get justice for the victims of this raid,” Grossman said.
“Mayor Reed should be begging forgiveness from the city and the gay community for ever having defended this case in the first place. And now he is planning to defend their actions again. He truly should be ashamed.”
Grossman added that the mayor did not want to release the investigations into the Eagle raid to the public but did so only after Grossman agreed in court documents to allow the city more time to finish the investigations after the court-mandated deadline of June 6.
As for the accusation that Grossman is only after money in his lawsuits against the city, the attorney answered all the men in the bar that night deserve to be compensated monetarily because of how they were treated.
“The only way the American legal system works is by awarding money to people whose rights are violated,” Grossman said. “My clients are people and they were shoved to the floor and forced to lay on the dirty floor for up to two hours while listening to anti-gay insults. They were treated as less than human.”
Former Eagle bartender files federal civil suit
A former Atlanta Eagle bartender is suing the city of Atlanta and four individual Atlanta police officers in federal court saying his constitutional rights were violated the night of the police raid.
Chris Lopez was a bartender at the Eagle when the APD’s Vice Unit and the now disbanded Red Dog Unit raided it. He alleges in his lawsuit filed Sept. 9 that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated when he was arrested and then put on trial in Atlanta Municipal Court. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court, Northern District of Georgia.
While the police raid was conducted as part of an undercover investigation into alleged illegal sex acts and drug use taking place at the bar, no one was arrested or charged with those offenses. Instead, police arrested eight employees including Lopez and charged them with permit violations for allegedly running an adult establishment without the correct paperwork filed with the city.
Known as the “Eagle 8,” tthe men went on trial in Municipal Court in March 2010. Lopez had his charges dismissed and others were found not guilty.
Individual officers named in the lawsuit are Willie Adams, John Brock, Kelly Collier and Brandon Jackson.
Collier was put on administrative leave by Chief George Turner and remains on the force. Jackson has already been fired by the APD for lying in an unrelated case. Adams was fired after the police department was slammed in two investigations of the Eagle raid.
Brock, who testified at the trial of the Eagle 8, was fired. Brock made anti-gay comments in the independent investigation conducted Greenberg Traurig, including saying gay people were “very violent.”
This lawsuit is separate from the lawsuit filed on behalf of 10 patrons of the bar by Grossman and Weber.
Lopez is represented by Atlanta attorney Bill Atkins.
A town hall forum with Mayor Reed and Chief Turner is planned for Nov. 1 at St. Mark United Methodist Church to discuss the Eagle raid and other public safety issues.
Top photo: Eagle attorney Dan Grossman (left) and Mayor Kasim Reed are continuing to go head-to-head in the ongoing fallout of the Eagle raid. (by Dyana Bagby)
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