Radio Free Naton
Attorneys Ted Dooley and Peter Nickitas filed lawsuits yesterday against the City of Saint Paul, Minneapolis, Ramsey County and individual Police Officers including Sheriff Bob Fletcher on behalf of eight Plaintiff’s stemming from events that occurred during the Republican National Convention.
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In spite of a late winter snow storm about forty people attended a Press Conference held yesterday at the William Mitchell College of Law in which Dooley announced the lawsuits and introduced the Plaintiffs. Michelle Gross, Mike Whelan, Mick Kelly, Olivia Katz, Jason Johnson, Rebecca Sang, Wendy Binion and Vladimir Teichberg.
Some of those involved in the suits talked about what happened to them during the RNC. Mick Kelly said he was shot with a rubber bullet after Police ended their permitted protest early and told them to disperse. He held up a photograph of the dinner plate sized bruise he suffered on his abdomen as a result of the bullet.
Wendy Binion who had been charged with Felony Conspiracy to Commit Riot explained how she was arrested along with other Independent Journalists on the second day of the RNC. She suffered some bruises and stated she was not allowed to make a phone call to her attorney while she was initially detained. She said that her camera, which was confiscated when she was arrested, was returned to her broken.
Ms. Binion added that although all charges against her were dropped, she was told by city officials that she was still “under investigation” and that could continue for years.
Perhaps the most disturbing allegations came from Michelle Gross who said she was the victim of sexual misconduct while in custody. She stated a female Officer stripped searched her in the presence of other male officers and touched her inappropriately. Her is an excerpt from her suit.
“On 29 August 2008, in the vicinity of 627 Smith Avenue, St. Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota, defendants A – E, jointly and severally, in their individual capacities as deputy sheriffs of Ramsey County, on information by direction of Defendant Fletcher, physically seized plaintiff without warrant, without probable cause, without exigent circumstances, without her consent, and without lawful authority.”
“Defendants A – E had no articulable suspicion that plaintiff was committing a crime, fleeing law enforcement authorities, or possessing weapons or contraband on her person at the time of her seizure.”
“Nevertheless, defendants A – E, jointly and severally, caused Ms. Gross to be strip-searched in the presence of men in a non-private location.” One or more of the individual defendants physically touched plaintiff without her consent or lawful authority under her brassiere in a sexually offensive manner.”
“The remaining individual defendants did nothing to stop or restrain the other individual defendants from seizing or touching plaintiff in a sexually offensive manner.”
Other’s attending the Press Conference expressed concern over the allegations and some shared their stories of encounters with Police during the RNC. Betsy Raasch-Gilman who has filed a separate suit against Ramsey County Sherriff Bob Fletcher said she saw evidence that the Sheriff was “spying” on citizens like her and was demanding in her lawsuit that she be allowed access to the file Sheriff Fletcher had about her activities.
When asked about the comparisons to the actions of Police at the RNC and those in 1938 Germany, Mr. Dooley responded by saying “You have to remember that what Adolph Hitler did, he did within the law” adding quickly “our law is only as powerful as our respect for it.”
The combined lawsuits are seeking millions of dollars in damages for the alleged victims. Dooley and Nickitas also said that the lawsuits they filed on behalf of their clients would include injunctive relief and attorneys fees.