BREAKING: City Proposes Possible Settlements in Atlanta Eagle Raid

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(APN) ATLANTA — The City of Atlanta has sent letters proposing possible settlements to the individual Plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit alleging violation of US Constitutional rights during the September 2009 raid of the Atlanta Eagle, a gay leather bar in Midtown, Atlanta Progressive News has learned.

Two of the Plaintiffs confirmed receipt of the letters; however, APN has granted them anonymity due to a confidentiality agreement which accompanied the letters.

According to the sources, the letters proposed various monetary settlements to each Plaintiff based on the circumstances of each individual case; and in each case, a range of dollar figures was proposed.  Variables included whether the individuals were wrongfully handcuffed, whether they had guns stuck in their face, whether they were verbally or physically abused, and other factors.

Amounts ranged from about 8,000 to almost 20,000 per person.

Other conditions of the settlement include that the Atlanta Police Department would have to change its policies and procedures regarding raids going forward to preclude such an incident from happening anywhere again in the City of Atlanta [especially, arresting an entire bar of 62 patrons despite lack of probable cause, instead of targeting the arrests to those suspected of wrongdoing, if any]; and the City would have to issue multiple apologies.

According to sources, the judge in the case indicated that based on the evidence already on record–some of which appears to have been illegally destroyed by the City of Atlanta–it is likely the ruling would be in favor of the Plaintiffs, that is, the bar patrons and staff who have sued.

Further, the judge felt it would be a waste of taxpayers money to continue to try the case when the outcome already appears likely.

The City of Atlanta, however, typically has no qualms about wasting taxpayers’ money in litigation, as evidenced not only in this situation, but also the lawsuits involving the City Council’s secret vote in February 2010; the City’s conspiracy to sabotage the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless; and the APD’s murder of Kathryn Johnson.

It is more likely the City is seeking to settle the case because they would prefer not to lose.

Dan Grossman, one of the attorneys for the Plaintiffs, left a voice message for APN in response to a text message inquiry this morning.  He said he was preparing a brief that was due at noon today in preparation for a mediation involving the Eagle case this Monday coming up, November 22, 2010.

APN broke the story of the raid during the middle of the night on September 11, 2009.  Since then, the story has become an international sensation.

Last month, the Sunday Paper reviewed some of the most recent court documents to reveal the destruction of evidence by the City.

Mayor Kasim Reed proposed a Blue Ribbon Committee, to advise him on how to respond to the situation, saying that he could not personally apologize at this point because to do so would be admitting wrongdoing, thus complicating the lawsuit.  The Sunday Paper criticized the panel for lacking experts and for being packed with supporters of his 2009 Mayoral campaign.

In addition, the bar was in the news when bartender Chris Lopez was let go from the bar and Creative Loafing Atlanta magazine’s Cliff Bostock ran a blog post suggesting the bar may be closing due to financial difficulties.  The claim was not attributed to Lopez.  The blog post later retracted by CL.

APN can report, however, that numerous staff, patrons, and even a co-owner have spoken candidly about how the bar may not survive.  

Lopez is among several bar staff members to have been terminated in recent months, in addition to Ernie Buehl and others.

However, bar co-owner Robby Kelley told APN that while the financial difficulties are real, they have no intention or plans of closing.  Georgia Voice magazine noted that the bar had re-submitted its annual application and payment for its liquor license to be renewed.

As previously reported by APN, the Atlanta Citizens’ Review Board has already found various APD officers and supervisors guilty of false arrest and verbal abuse.  The Board is conducting a study to determine whether it can recommend harsher-than-usual penalties for the higher-ups and whether it can compel them to cooperate with their investigation.

The APD’s internal investigation by the Office of Professional Standards has already been completed as well, but the results are being withheld from the public until the lawsuit is completed.

APN’s Editor–the present writer–made a presentation last month to the Public Safety/Legal Administration Committee of the City Council of Atlanta regarding the need for policy and practice change.  However, the APD’s spokesperson said any policy changes would be pending the OPS investigation results, which would be pending the outcome of the lawsuit.

Councilman Ivory Young (District 3), who chairs the committee, said he would review the CRB’s findings and that his eyes were wide open to the Constitution and to policy change.

Grossman said that waiting was the wrong approach for the City to take because they are refusing to show the courts that they are taking any measures to correct the problem and that they are continuing to expose themselves and the taxpayers to more litigation.  Grossman added that changing policies going forward would not be construed in court as an admission of wrongdoing.

DEVELOPING…

(END / 2010)

CORRECTION AND UPDATES:

Creative Loafing’s blog post about the Eagle possibly closing did not attribute the claim to Lopez.

For more significant updates regarding this story, see the article published two days later, “Update 2 on Eagle Settlement.”

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