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|Atlanta Eagle raid police officer withdraws appeal of suspension|
|Written by Dyana Bagby|
|Tuesday, 18 October 2011 15:10|
Atlanta Police Department Sgt. Kelly Collier withdrew his appeal of his 20-day suspension received for his role in the unconstitutional 2009 raid on the Eagle, a gay bar.
Collier, who was with the APD Vice Unit at the time, appeared before the city's Civil Service Board today in an attempt to appeal his suspension and get back pay. But about an hour into the hearing, including a recess with his attorney and the city attorney, he agreed to withdraw the appeal. He now works with the police department’s Weed & Seed program.
Collier's attorney told the three-member Civil Service Board that Collier agreed to withdraw his appeal after she and Atlanta City Senior Assistant Attorney Amber Robinson had a private conversation outside the hearing during the recess. No specific reason was given why the appeal was withdrawn.
Asked why he withdrew his appeal, Collier would only say, "Just tired. Just tired."
Robinson, who was there to defend Collier’s suspension, declined comment after the hearing.
A Civil Service Board hearing originally set for Monday, Oct. 17, with fired officer Jeremy Edwards was canceled and will likely be rescheduled in December, Robinson said. She said his attorney had a conflict and asked for a continuance.
Edwards was documented during city investigations into the raid for making many anti-gay statements, including saying: "Seeing another man have sex with another man in the ass, I would classify that as very violent.'"
Two more hearings from officers fired due to fallout from the Eagle raid are scheduled for this week — fired officer Cayenne Mayes is set to appeal his firing on Wednesday and fired officer Willie Adams is scheduled to appear before the board on Thursday.
Mayes and Adams, both formerly of the Red Dog Unit, were fired for "lack of truthfulness."
City attorney Robinson, who has also played a significant role in defending the city against lawsuits by patrons of the bar the night it was raided, was put on the offensive for the city to uphold Collier's suspension.
In an exchange over whether or not Collier knew there was a search warrant for the raid on the Eagle, Robinson repeatedly asked Collier if he knew there was a plan about who to search and detain during the raid, as well as if there was a search warrant for the undercover raid on Sept. 10, 2009.
The first federal civil lawsuit against the city, which was eventually settled for $1.025 million, included charges by patrons in the bar that they were illegally searched and detained during the raid, violating their constitutional rights. Two more lawsuits have been filed against the city alleging constitutional violations by officers. Another lawsuit filed by employees of the Atlanta Eagle was settled last month by the city for $120,000.
Robinson questioned Collier extensively about what happened the night of the raid, specifically about if he knew if there was a search warrant issued for the raid and why patrons of the bar were detained rather than only the people to be arrested.
"Did you attend any briefing before the operation was executed?" Robinson asked.
Yes," Collier answered.
"During that briefing did you discuss who was to be detained in the establishment?" Robinson asked.
"No," he said.
"Do you know what the initial plan was concerning any detention of anybody in the club?" Robinson asked.
"This is what I thought … they were going to arrest the violators," Collier answered.
"Did anybody discuss running the persons through the ACIC [computer system used for background checks] during the briefing?" Robinson asked.
"It was mentioned. I can't recall him [Sgt. John Brock, who was fired] mentioning to run everybody. Everybody you arrest you run," Collier answered.
Robinson then went on to question whether Collier knew if there was a search warrant for the raid.
"I didn't know if there was or wasn't but I assumed there was [a search warrant]," Collier said.
Robinson then showed Collier a copy of a transcript of a statement he made to the law firm Greenberg Traurig on May 12 about the raid. Greenberg Traurig conducted an investigation into the raid for the city and found officers violated policies.
During his statement to Greenberg Traurig, Collier stated, "I wasn't told that there was or was not, but I didn't think there was a search warrant," Robinson pointed out.
At today's hearing, Collier said that statement was wrong and should have read that he "did" think there was a search warrant rather than he "didn't" think there was a search warrant.
However, Robinson stated, the following questions about whether or not Collier knew there was a search warrant clearly showed he did not think there was a search warrant.
"And why didn't you think there was a search warrant?" Collier was asked May 12.
"Because I didn't hear anything — I haven't heard anything about a search warrant," Collier told Greenberg Traurig on May 12.
The whole conversation Collier had with Greenberg Traurig states that Collier believed there was no search warrant, Robinson pointed out.
"You didn't correct him [the Greenberg Traurig questioner]?" Robinson asked.
"I must not have understood," Collier responded.
"Let's just be clear. Today you're swearing that at the time of the operation you thought there was a search warrant," Robinson said. "Today, when you when you want your 20 days back, today you assume there was a warrant?"
"I didn't know if there was or wasn't but I assumed there was," Collier said.
"Why did you assume?" Robinson asked.
"An operation of that size, when [Brock] brought in Red Dog, he should have had a search warrant," Collier said.
Robinson then asked what Collier thought would have happened if there had been a search warrant.
"I think it wouldn't have gone to this level … the lawsuits, the discipline, the punishments. It would have been signed by a judge and given probable cause," Collier said.
Robinson also continued to question Collier about detaining patrons at the Eagle the night of the raid and he continued to say he believed only violators would be detained and arrested and only those arrested would have their IDs run through the ACIC computer for criminal background checks.
However, in his statement to Greenberg Traurig in May, when Collier was asked if he knew all people in the bar would have their IDs run through ACIC, he said, "I think I may have heard that right before we got in. Well, did I hear that right before …"
Robinson asked if a search warrant would have allowed all the patrons to be run through the ACIC system.
"No," Collier answered.
Robinson then asked Collier if he saw anyone in the bar having their IDs being run through the ACIC.
"No," he answered.
After this round of questioning, Robinson asked for the recess that lasted approximately 15 minutes. When the hearing was reconvened Collier withdrew his appeal.
Top photo: Sgt. Kelly Collier (by Dyana Bagby)
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