Task Force Files Racketeering Suit against Developer

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(APN) ATLANTA — The Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless filed a response and countersuit yesterday in Fulton County Superior Court alleging, among other things, that the City of Atlanta, Central Atlanta Progress, and developer Manny Fialkow engaged in racketeering in their concerted effort to sabotage the Task Force.

“The Conspirators have sought to drive the Task Force out of business and obtain the Subject Property by injuring its reputation, depriving it of funds, and utilizing its weakened position to gain control of its Notes and foreclose on the Subject Property,” the countersuit states.

“These actions have been taken as part of a plan and enterprise designed to drive the Task Force and the homeless population it serves from downtown Atlanta and gain control of the Subject Property,” the countersuit states.

As previously reported by APN, Fialkow’s company, Ichthus, recently sought to get a restraining order to get the Task Force–but not the homeless men, allegedly–out of the building. Fialkow also sought a formal eviction. However, Judge Schwall did not approve those requests and instead expressed concern regarding the claims of a City, CAP, Fialkow conspiracy to sabotage the Task Force.

Those claims have now been formalized in the countersuit.

In addition, the federal lawsuit that the Task Force filed against the City of Atlanta–which makes similar substantive claims–also moves forward. That suit alleges intentional interference with private business relationships in violation of the civil rights of Atlanta’s homeless population, the majority of whom are Black.

Steve Hall, attorney for the Task Force with the Baker Donelson law firm, told Atlanta Progressive News that the case against the City had to be filed in federal court because federal law violations related to civil rights are being claimed.

In the most recent hearing before Judge Schwall, Hall expressed an interest in consolidating all the outstanding cases–the federal case, Fialkow’s TRO request, and the eviction case–before Judge Schwall.

Fialkow’s attorneys agreed that the eviction case could be consolidated. However, the City would have to agree to have the federal case consolidated, because they are the Defendant in that case. Hall said during the hearing that he would like it if the City would agree to that, gesturing towards the City’s attorney in the audience. However, she just nervously smiled in response.

The countersuit is unique also because it alleges violations of Georgia law, such as the Georgia RICO Act.

Civil rights activist Joe Beasley had already argued that he believed the City’s actions along with CAP and Fialkow amounted to racketeering, and he had already visited the District Attorney Paul Howard to make that allegation.

“I feel really good, I think it’s well-documented, we’re very fortunate to have such a skilled attorney, that is very courageous and very knowledgeable,” Beasley told APN.

“When I saw it and read it, how it was well-documented I said to Anita Beaty that I really felt vindicated. All the lies and all the slanderous things that have been said about Peachtree-Pine and Anita I felt vindicated it was in the judicial systen, a judge will be able to look at it and make a decision,” Beasley said.

“I think there’s a strong case I think we could win. I felt really, really good about it,” Beasley said.

Hall also stated that in addition to the countersuit against Fialkow’s firm, he will be moving to add additional defendants, such as Central Atlanta Progress, the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District, Ichthus’s Trustee, and Fialkow himself, to the suit.

“As set forth in detail below, the actions of the Conspirators constitute tortious conduct, including intentional interference with business relations, defamation, fraud, violation of the Georgia RICO Act, and other actionable conduct,” the countersuit states.

The countersuit first seeks for the Court to enjoin the apparent Conspirators “from acting on its purported foreclosure of the Subject Property, selling the Subject Property, or interfering in any way with the Task Force’s quiet enjoyment of the subject property.”

Second, the countersuit seeks to quiet Ichthus’s title of the buidling. “The Task Force currently holds or should hold a fee simple interest in the Subject Property. The Deed Under Power of Sale [that] Ichthus purports to hold was obtained through the illegal, improper, and fraudulent conduct of Ichthus, BCIB, Fialkow, and the other Conspirators. As such it is invalid and of no force and effect. The Deed Under Power of Sale should be set aside,” it states.

Third, the countersuit argues that the apparent Conspirators engaged in racketeering, citing the Georgia RICO Act.

Racketeering is defined as “A person who commits crimes such as extortion, loansharking, bribery, and obstruction of justice in furtherance of illegal business activities,” according to Freedictionary.com.

The countersuit argues that the racketeering included bribery of Debi Starnes, the Mayor’s Policy Advisor on Homelessness, to influence her performance of the functions of her office or employment with the City. As previously reported by APN, Central Atlanta Progress and a downtown hotel funneled a total of 50,000 dollars to Starnes through the United Way to pay for her salary.

The countersuit argues the racketeering also included attempting to influence persons in relation to official proceedings. For example, as previously reported by APN, CAP attempted to dissuade the Task Force’s pro bono lawfirm, Baker Donelson, from representing the Task Force by contacting the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, another Baker Donelson client, and pressuring the Chamber to contact and pressure the firm.

The countersuit argues the racketeering also included perjury or making false statements. “The Conspirators… committed a predicate act, by knowingly and intentionally providing and engineering the provision of false, fictitious, fraudulent, and misleading statements to the Fulton County, Dekalb County, and City of Atlanta Tri-Jurisdictional Board that evaluated the Task Force for receipt of federal funding. The knowing provision of this false information caused the Task Force to lose millions of dollars in federal funding.”

The countersuit argues the apparent Conspirators, particularly CAP, ADID, and the City, are guilty of battery and related offenses to the person by engaging in the so-called “Wake up, Stay up,” program, where downtown Ambassadors assault sleeping homeless people in an attempt to wake them up at night and make them move.

The countersuit argues the racketeering also included intentional interference with business and contractual relationship; that it included libel slander and defamation; and that the apparent Conspirators acted in bad faith.

The countersuit seeks that the apparent Conspirators, including the City, CAP, and Fialkow, would pay putitive damages for all the above charges, in an amount to be determined by a jury.

The countersuit will now go into a 90 discovery period, Hall said, and he is asking to consolidate the discovery in both the state and federal cases.

(END/2010)

About the author:

Matthew Cardinale is the News Editor for The Atlanta Progressive News and is reachable at matthew@atlantaprogressivenews.com.

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