An independent investigation has confirmed that Atlanta police officers broke the law during the raid of the Atlanta Eagle gay bar in September, 2009 by unlawfully searching and seizing patrons who were not suspected of any crime.  Twenty-four Atlanta police officers were found to have falsely imprisoned patrons during the raid; ten officers were found to have lied about their actions; and ten officers destroyed evidence in a federal lawsuit by deleting data from their mobile phones.  Eagle patrons were forced to lay face-down on the bar’s floor in part because of the anti-gay prejudices of the raid commander, and some police officers made anti-gay comments during the raid.

The Internal Affairs unit of the Atlanta Police Department issued a report at the same time with conclusions that closely mirror those in the Greenberg Traurig report.   An earlier Internal Affairs report, drafted in August, 2010 but never released, had failed to hold officers responsible for these violations.

The independent investigation was conducted by the law firm of Greenberg Traurig and was led by respected attorney Joe D. Whitley, who was a United States Attorney and Acting Associate Attorney General (the third-ranking position at Department of Justice) under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and who served as the first General Counsel of the United States Department of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush.

The full text of the two reports are available here:

Greenberg Traurig report [PDF]

Internal Affairs report [PDF]

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE GREENBERG TRAURIG REPORT [PDF]

Untruthfulness

The Greenberg Traurig report confirmed widespread lying by officers both under oath (in court testimony and sworn statements) and in statements to the Atlanta Citizen Review Board and others.  The report identified ten individual officers who violated the APD regulation regarding truthfulness (GT report, see chart on p. 302), for which the disciplinary sanction is dismissal.

With regard to the lead investigator of the Eagle Raid, Investigator Bennie Bridges, the report concluded: “Bridges sworn testimony presented in front of a Court of Law as well as his discovery responses are untruthful.”  (GT report, p. 174)

The report also cited Officer Jeremy Edwards, who claimed that he witnessed 5-10 men having sex at the Eagle on the night of the Raid.  Greenberg Traurig concluded:  “In light of all of the record evidence, that statement is false.”  (GT report, p. 185.)  Officer Edwards was also found to have lied about evidence on his mobile phone:  Edwards denied using a mobile phone during the raid, and at one point even denied having a mobile phone at all, but forensic examination of his cell phone uncovered both a photograph he took during the Raid and text messages he exchanged with a Red Dog officer during the Raid.  (GT report, pp. 80-81; 184).

Two officers even lied about whether they had previously lied.  Federal Magistrate Judge Linda T. Walker found that officers Brandon Jackson and James Menzoian had been untruthful in testimony in her court in 2009, but when they were asked in the Eagle litigation if they had “ever been found to have been untruthful or to have misled any court, judge, [or] magistrate,” both Jackson and Menzoian said “No.”  The Greenberg Traurig report concluded:  “This is a misstatement of a material fact, and thus, we find it to be untruthful.” (GT report, pp. 244, 259.)

Destruction of Evidence

On October 6, 2010, the Plaintiffs filed a motion with the Court alleging that several APD officers intentionally destroyed evidence in a federal case by deleting data on mobile phones Judge Timothy C. Batten, Sr. had ordered them to produce.

The Greenberg Traurig report devoted 39 pages to a detailed analysis of this issue (pages 67-106).  The report concluded that ten officers failed to “obey the law” in connection with their “mass deletion of cell phone data.”  (GT report. p. 106.)

Unlawful Search & Seizure and False Imprisonment

The report found 24 Atlanta police officers responsible for false imprisonment and unlawful search and seizure for detaining the patrons of the Atlanta Eagle without any reason to suspect them of a crime.  (GT report, see chart on p. 302-303.)  For example, the report concluded that  “Sergeant Adams and the Red Dog Unit falsely imprisoned the patrons when they were detained without reasonable suspicion or probable cause.”  (GT report, p. 164.)

Intentional Violation of Constitutional Rights

The report found that Raid commanders including Red Dog Sgt. Willie Adams and Vice Sgt. John Brock knowingly violated the rights of persons at the Eagle:

“Sergeant Adams knowingly violated the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches.”  (GT report, p. 162.)

“Sergeant Brock knowingly violated the patrons’ Fourth Amendment rights when he instructed that all patrons to be frisked for weapons. … Although Sergeant Brock recognizes that APD does not have the right to pat down every person at a crime scene unless they were involved with the crime, Sergeant Brock instructed Vice officers to frisk each and every patron for weapons.”  (GT report, pp. 145-146.)

Anti-Gay Discrimination

The report concluded that patrons of the Eagle were forced to lay face-down on the floor during the Raid in part because of anti-gay prejudice on the part of Raid commander Sgt. John Brock.  The report concluded:  “By allowing the sexual orientation of the patrons to influence tactical decisions of the Raid, Brock allowed his preconceived notions of a class of persons to dictate the treatment of individuals.”  (GT report, pp. 143-144.)

In describing his belief that gay people are more violent than heterosexuals, Brock stated:  “In the past I have as a patrol officer handled calls where there are gay couples living in residence where one is mad at the other, and they slash clothes, furniture, anything they can do. They’re very violent.”  (GT report, pp. 142-143.)  When asked if he thinks “that the gay community is more violent than other citizen groups” Brock replied:  “My experience, yes. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, when they’re — when they get mad, they get really mad.”

The report also found that officers made anti-gay remarks both during the Raid itself (GT report. P. 31) and during the investigation that followed, including Officer Jeremy Edwards who described a “man have sex with another man” as being “very violent.”  (GT report, p. 179-180).

Command Failures; Failure to Supervise

The report identified failures by senior APD commanders.

In finding Vice Unit commander Tony Crawford responsible for “Unsatisfactory Performance,” the report stated:  “Lieutenant Crawford did not provide the Vice Unit with an adequate level of supervision. As previously stated, Crawford rarely, if at all, attended details and was generally unavailable to the Vice Unit. By all accounts, during Crawford’s tenure, Sergeant Brock was handling the day-to-day operations of the Vice Unit, including supervising the vast majority of evening undercover details.”  (GT report, pp. 133-134.)  The report also found that Lt. Crawford “was untruthful with regard to material issues.” (GT report, p. 134.)

The report determined that “Major [Debra] Williams, as the highest ranking SES official failed to adequately supervise the Eagle Investigation.  In addition, Major Williams presented an inaccurate statement to the public regarding APD policies and procedures.”  (GT report, p. 128.)

According to the report, Vice Sgt. Kelly Collier “did nothing when he saw patrons ordered to the ground detained despite his belief that such a detention was illegal.”  (GT report, p. 153.)  “As a sergeant, Collier was responsible for ensuring that the officers at the Eagle that night complied with the rules, regulations and Standard Operating Procedures. By his own admission, Collier failed to properly observe and supervise the officers, including during the time they were conducting improper frisks.”  (GT report, p. 152.)

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The Atlanta City Council has approved settlement of the civil rights lawsuit against the City of Atlanta and 35 Atlanta police officers filed by two businesses and 26 patrons of a bar raided by police on September 10-11, 2009.

The settlement includes payment of $1,025,000 plus reforms of the Atlanta Police Department.  The parties and their attorneys are prohibited from releasing details of the reforms or making any comments about the case until the settlement is entered as a formal Order by the United States District Court.

The case is Calhoun v. Pennington [download complaint].  The plaintiffs were represented by Atlanta attorney Daniel J. Grossman, the Southern Center for Human Rights, and the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund.

[Article about settlement in The GA Voice.]

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Atlanta Eagle Raid Case Settled

by AtlantaEagleRaid.com on December 4, 2010

The federal civil rights lawsuit arising from the September 10-11, 2009, police raid on the Atlanta Eagle bar has been settled.  [Atlanta Journal Constitution link].

Minute Entry for proceedings held before Magistrate Judge Alan J. Baverman:

“Settlement Conference held on 12/3/2010. The parties have reached an agreement to settle this case, which they believe is in the best interest of the City, its residents, and visitors. This agreement includes monetary compensation and reforms of the Atlanta Police Department. Until this agreement is approved by the Atlanta City Council and by the District Court, the parties and counsel shall not make further comment to the media about this case.”

The plaintiffs were represented by Atlanta attorney Daniel J. Grossman, the Southern Center for Human Rights, and the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund.

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The Atlanta Citizen Review Board found 24 Atlanta police officers guilty of the false imprisonment of patrons during the warrantless raid of of the Atlanta Eagle bar on September 10-11, 2009.  The Board also held on-scene supervisors responsible for the use of profanity and anti-gay slurs by officers conducting the raid.  The ruling came during the Board’s monthly meeting on September 9, 2010, at which it considered complaints filed by patrons of the bar; the Board previously found officers guilty of misconduct with regard to complaints filed by bar employees.

The Board voted to conduct a separate study to determine who was ultimately responsible for the raid and postponed its recommendation of disciplinary sanctions pending completion of the study.  The Board expressed its belief that a raid of this scale — involving dozens of officers from two separate units and the warrantless seizure of more than 70 civilians — was probably approved in advance by senior commanders in the Atlanta Police Department; the study will attempt to determine who authorized and approved the illegal police conduct during the raid.  Many observers, including reporters who have covered the Atlanta Police Department for years, share the Board’s skepticism that a raid of this magnitude could have been conducted under the authority of a sergeant alone, as claimed, without prior approval from higher-ranking commanders.

The victims of the raid filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in November, 2009.  The city continues to defend the lawsuit and contend that its officers did nothing wrong.

Media coverage of the Decision:

Police oversight panel to study APD supervisors role in gay bar raid: Atlanta Journal Constitution

Police falsely imprisoned Atlanta Eagle bar patrons, employees in raid, rules citizen review board: The GA Voice

Citizen Review Board takes up Eagle Raid:  Fox 5 News

Citizen Review Board Finds Atlanta Police Violated Procedure, Constitution: WABE/NPR

Citizen panel: 24 ATL cops mistreated Eagle Bar patrons: Atlanta Unfiltered

CRB sustains “False Imprisonment” charge against officers in Eagle Raid: The Sunday Paper

The GA Voice

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Citizen Review Board Finds Police Misconduct at Eagle

by AtlantaEagleRaid.com on August 18, 2010

Atlanta’s Citizen Review Board found police guilty of misconduct during the Atlanta Eagle raid.

At an August 12, 2010 public meeting at Atlanta City Hall, the Board sustained allegations that police officers made racist and anti-gay slurs and used the “F word” to abuse and demean Eagle patrons and employees during the raid.

The Board voted to postpone a recommendation about disciplinary sanctions until it completes its overall investigation of police misconduct at the Eagle.

More information is available from Atlanta NPR-affiliate WABE Radio (”Citizen Review Board Finds Police Misconduct During Eagle Raid“) and The Georgia Voice newspaper (”Police used abusive language in botched Atlanta Eagle bar raid“).

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The Atlanta Citizen Review Board voted last night to recommend disciplinary sanctions against two officers for falsely arresting David Shepherd, the Eagle assistant manager who was watching TV in his apartment when he was arrested by police.

The CRB recommended sanctions against Investigator Bennie Bridges (left) and Sgt. John Brock (right), seen below at the March 11, 2010 trial of the “Eagle 8.”

bridges-brock

Photo courtesy ProjectQAtlanta

Mr. Shepherd is one of 28 plaintiffs in a federal civil rights lawsuit filed against the city of Atlanta and 35 individual police officers including Investigator Bridges and Sgt. Brock.  Mr. Shepherd’s warrantless arrest in his home violated the United States Supreme Court ruling in Payton v. New York as well as other Supreme Court rulings, Georgia law, and the Atlanta Police Department’s own regulations.

Last night’s meeting concerned only the complaint filed by Mr. Shepherd.   The CRB will consider the complaints of other Eagle patrons and employees over the next few months.

UPDATE:  The GA Voice (Atlanta’s GLBT newspaper) has published an in-depth story about the CRB meeting which is worth reading.

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Recent Press Coverage of Eagle Raid Lawsuit

by AtlantaEagleRaid.com on March 20, 2010

wsb-tv-story

WSB-TV story

Six More Atlanta Eagle Patrons Join Federal Lawsuit: WABE-Atlanta/NPR

Reed calls Eagle lawsuit ‘threat to city’: ProjectQAtlanta

Reed clarifies remarks over Eagle lawsuit, probe: ProjectQAtlanta

Focus turns to federal lawsuit over Eagle raid:  GA Voice

Gay bar’s lawsuit against Atlanta police expanded: Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Bittersweet Victory:  GA Voice blog editorial

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Attorneys in the Atlanta Eagle federal lawsuit (Calhoun v. Pennington) today filed an Amended Complaint naming 35 individual Atlanta police officers as defendants and adding six additional Eagle patrons to the list of plaintiffs.

A copy of the Amended Complaint is available here:  Download PDF

The plaintiffs are represented by Atlanta attorney Dan Grossman, the Southern Center for Human Rights, and Lambda Legal.

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Discovery Begins in Eagle Raid Federal Lawsuit Today

March 15, 2010

The discovery process begins today in the federal lawsuit against the city and the individual police officers who conducted the raid.
Attorneys for the police begin taking depositions of raid victims this morning in a process that will last two weeks, and the plaintiffs will be requesting radio transmission tapes and other evidence for use at trial.
Listen [...]

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Eagle Eight Trial Rescheduled for March 11th

January 28, 2010

The city ordinance violation trial of the four dancers and four Eagle employees taken to jail during the September 10, 2009 police raid has been rescheduled for March 11, 2010 at 8:00 AM.
The City of Atlanta has still refused to drop charges against any of the eight men, who include a doorman, a bartender, and [...]

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