Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Creative Loafing Asks Questions About The Eagle

Creative Loafing attended the Atlanta Police Department's presser on the Eagle raid and left unfulfilled. He has additional questions and they are good ones.

I would add one that was posed by someone else.

If this was about public sex and not drugs (of which none were found), then why was the Red Dog Squad involved?

I've been wrong on many of political predictions but on this one I have confidence I am right. This incident, blowing up in the middle of a hotly contested Mayoral race, will not go away.

One of the reasons it will linger is Kyle Keyser.

As noted before, his is an issues candidacy. His own staff admits he cannot win, but here is a gay man, an activist, a crusader who has spent the past nine months campaigning for better law enforcement resources and better management of those resources, who shockingly raised the qualifying fee in two days after posting his intents on facebook and just a few days after that stunning achievement, the police foolishly waste resources raiding a gay bar. Fate is an interesting mistress.

He's also the odd duck in a field of mealy-mouthed politicians and this makes him the darling of both the traditional media and the new media word jockeys like myself.

No. I don't believe this incident will fade. I believe there's one man who won't let it.


Sara said...

I didn't know Keyser was gay, but that certainly adds yet another interesting angle into this developing story. (I figured he would be pushing the angle that APD is wasting resources on flashy busts of victimless crimes rather than actually cracking down on violent crime and costly property crime.)

My guess to answer the question that I originally posed is that APD expected to find drugs in the club that night in mass quantities. That they did not undermines the justifications for the raid to begin with, that allegedly undercover officers saw illegal activity in the club. Did they see drugs there before, or just assume that in a clubby atmosphere there must be some drugs, somewhere, if only they could search everyone on premises?

duanemoody.com said...

I posed almost the same question this morning on my blog. If those acts were not occurring when the undercover officers were there, WHY was the raid continued? It doesn't add up.

rptrcub said...

Southern Voice has copies of the "complaints" that led to all of this, and they lead me to theorize that this might have been a bitter queen, not necessarily a Midtown NIMBY, who got the ball rolling.

Still, it does not justify what happened.

Q for Sara (you are a lawyer, correct?): Does the law require a search warrant for what APD did?

griftdrift said...

I'm not a lawyer but I can answer part of that. The officers are allowed to frisk people "for the safety of the officer". As far as coming in the club, that I don't know.

rptrcub said...

The reason I say that a bitter queen might have done this is that the first complaint goes into a lot of detail about a gathering of the bears, with details about an outside gathering -- something a neighborhood NIMBY would not know about, but someone in the gay community would -- especially if there was a internal political struggle in the organization mentioned in the first document.

Sara said...

I'm a lawyer but don't do criminal work, so I'm not sure. (Jen B. could probably help me out here.)

There are a variety of times when officers can legally and constitutionally search someone even without a warrant. The generally recognized exceptions are: searches with consent, frisks, items in plain feel/plain view, searches incident to lawful arrest, certain searches of automobiles, exigent circumstances, open fields, abandoned property, and public places.

As for the raid on the club, I assume they had warrants for the arrest of certain individuals based upon the visits by the undercover officers, and were attempting to execute those with this raid. They did not have a search warrant, but probably did not need one to search patrons incident to (arguably) lawful arrests of those patrons and frisks of the clientele for, as James said, personal safety of the officers. (It sounds like they interpreted "frisks" very liberally.)

If they had searched the club itself rather than its patrons, they may have needed a search warrant unless contraband was either in plain view within the club or if something presented a safety risk to the officers during the arrests.

The much bigger legal issue is that it is unlikely there will be any legal recourse if the searches were illegal but were performed on patrons who were not arrested or charged. It is one thing to argue that an illegal search that bore fruit should be grounds to suppress the evidence, but it is another thing entirely to prove that your constitutional rights were violated in an actionable way by a search that did not turn up anything. Theoretically the searched patrons could bring civil rights claims against the APD and/or Bivens actions (lawsuits for violations of civil rights by individual state officers) but both are tough to prevail upon and I'm not sure what sort of damages they could show or convince a jury to award.

So, because it's tough to enforce the 4th amendment unless you are trying to throw out illegally obtained evidence, the APD may very well "get away with it" even if they did perform an illegal search, because they did not turn up any contraband that can be thrown out in a subsequent prosecution.

Jen said...

"Q for Sara (you are a lawyer, correct?): Does the law require a search warrant for what APD did?"

Meaning, did APD need a search warrant for patting down all the patrons? Sigh. The answer is No.

Officers can stop you for any reason and ask you for your identification; however, officers aren't able to detain you or frisk you without reasonable suspicion.

BUT, the courts have significantly watered down the "reasonable suspicion" requirement. Hell, they're only suppose to frisk you for weapons. But, if you have an item in your pocket that doesn't feel like a weapon, they'll take it anyway and the Judge will uphold the search under the "plain feel" doctrine. It's such bullshit.

Dave Bearse said...

Failure to include the gay liason officer gives the appearance the position is a public relations window dressing.

Anonymous said...

It used to be N-words and queers.

Now it's honkey's and queers.