December 9, 2010 | by Dyana Bagby
Atlanta Council approves settlement over Eagle raid

Staff and patrons of the Atlanta Eagle mark the one-year anniversary of a botched police raid on the bar. (Photo courtesy of Georgia Voice)

Editor’s note: Laura Douglas-Brown contributed to this report.

ATLANTA — The City Council voted unanimously this week to approve a $1.025 million settlement in a federal lawsuit over the Atlanta Police Department’s 2009 raid on the Atlanta Eagle, a gay bar on Ponce de Leon Avenue.

The settlement must now go back to the federal judge for final approval. All parties in the case are under a gag order until the settlement is finalized.

Before the vote, the council met in closed executive session to discuss the proposed settlement, which was reached Friday between city attorneys and attorneys for patrons and employees of the Eagle.

The settlement resolution includes $1.025 million to go into an escrow account with Lambda Legal, one of two nonprofit legal groups that joined attorney Dan Grossman in representing the Eagle plaintiffs. The Southern Center for Human Rights also joined the case.

Patrons and employees of the Atlanta Eagle filed the federal lawsuit against the city and dozens of Atlanta Police Department officers in November 2009 following the botched raid of the gay bar on the night of Sept. 10, 2009.

The suit alleged the Atlanta Police Department and its Red Dog unit violated the employees’ and patrons’ federal and state constitutional rights by illegally detaining them, searching them without warrants and using anti-gay slurs during the raid.

Atlanta Eagle patrons alleged they were forced to lie face down on the bar’s floor the night of the raid as members of the APD’s Red Dog Unit searched them for drugs and ran background checks on them using their ID cards. Eight people were arrested and charged with operating an adult establishment without proper city permits. The raid occurred on the bar’s once popular “Underwear Night” in which dancers clad in underwear entertained patrons.

Police stated the raid came after a months-long investigation following complaints to former Mayor Shirley Franklin’s office of illegal sex taking place at the bar. No one was arrested that night for illegal sex or possession of drugs.

A trial of the “Eagle Eight” occurred in Municipal Court in March. Charges against several of those arrested were dismissed during the trial while three others were found not guilty.

The settlement resolution also notes that the Atlanta Police Department “has agreed to take certain actions in regard to their standard operating procedures” in the wake of the raid and lawsuit.

Richard Ramey, co-owner of the Eagle, denied a recent Atlanta media report that the bar is going to close by year’s end.

“Business is bad for everyone — there’s not a bar in Atlanta that’s not having a tough year,” Ramey said. But he added that he is not planning to close the bar.

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