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|Atlanta’s total cost for illegal police raid nears $3 million|
|by Dyana Bagby|
|April 13, 2012 00:00|
Documents released by the city of Atlanta show that the city paid out more than $1.2 million for an independent investigation into the botched raid of the Atlanta Eagle.
The documents show that high-profile law firm Greenberg Traurig charged the city more than $1.2 million for its three-month investigation and 349-page report of what happened at the Eagle the night of Sept. 10, 2009, when the gay bar was raided by the Atlanta Police Department after anonymous allegations about illegal sex and drug use at the bar. No drugs were found and nobody was arrested for illegal sex.
The investigation was mandated as part of a $1.025 million settlement the city reached in December 2010 with 26 patrons of the bar who said their constitutional rights were violated when they were detained for no reason, forced to the ground and had their IDs checked.
The Atlanta City Council approved a settlement in the third Eagle lawsuit filed by attorney Dan Grossman on March 19, with the city paying out $330,000 to 10 plaintiffs. That March 19 agreement followed a settlement for $120,000 for eight employees in October 2011 and the original Eagle lawsuit.
The city hired Greenberg Traurig in March 2011 and the report was finished in June 2011.
The city did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the $1.2 million attorneys’ fees, but did provide the 166-page Greenberg Traurig expense report to the GA Voice.
The entries show that attorneys charged hourly rates ranging from $75 to $395.
The report gave hard evidence that some officers were anti-gay and many lied about what happened the night of the raid. Six officers were fired by Chief George Turner due to the report.
One of the officers fired, Sgt. John Brock, was a key organizer of the raid. Greenberg Traurig’s investigation included an interview with the former APD officer in which Brock said he believed gay people were more violent than straight people.
Brock’s interview by Greenberg Traurig took place on May 17, 2011. That day also included a site visit to the Atlanta Eagle with Eagle attorney Dan Grossman and other correspondence of attorneys and APD officers, as well as a analyzing cell phone records of officers around the time of the raid. Total cost for May 17, 2011, was $15,766.50.
The expense report shows Greenberg Traurig spent many hours reading media reports on the raid as well as a number of hours reviewing the Atlanta Citizen Review Board’s own investigation of the raid that was released in January 2011.
The ACRB report also showed that officers lied and the constitutional rights of patrons were violated. However, the ACRB did not recommend officers be fired. Rather, the ACRB recommended three-day suspensions, written reprimands and Fourth Amendment training for officers for the some 20 officers it investigated in the raid. Chief Turner did nothing with the ACRB’s recommendations, however.
One Eagle lawsuit pending
The city’s release of the cost of the Greenberg Traurig investigation appears to signify an end to the Eagle cases. However, one case is still pending.
Chris Lopez, a former bartender for the Eagle, filed his own federal civil suit against the city on Sept. 9, 2011. Lopez was one of eight employees arrested the night of the raid. The city filed a motion to dismiss on Oct. 24, 2011. The most recent filing in the lawsuit is by Lopez’s attorney, Bill Hicks, who filed for a leave of absence on Feb. 26.
Lopez’ suit argues that the Greenberg Traurig report shows his constitutional rights were violated, however the city argues in court documents that the report only shows that the patrons’ Fourth Amendment rights were violated and not Lopez’s because, as an employee, the police had probable cause to arrest him.
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