Skip to comments.City settles with Hells Angels for $50,000 - Denver
Posted on 09/09/2003 1:48:53 AM PDT by garmonbozia
Denver will pay $50,000 to settle claims filed after police raided a Hells Angels clubhouse in the summer of 2001 and detained other members of the motorcycle gang at a swap meet early this year.
City officials also drafted a letter of apology.
The settlement was reached with 18 people - 11 involved in a federal lawsuit filed after the raid of the Hells Angels clubhouse northwest of downtown, and seven others who were detained and questioned by police earlier this year.
"Hopefully, this will send a message to the Denver Police Department that they can't stereotype people," said David Lane, one of the attorneys for the bikers. "If these Hells Angels are committing crimes, go get 'em. If they're not, they have a right to associate with whoever they want to associate with."
Assistant City Attorney John Eckhardt would not specifically detail what led to the settlement.
"There's always a multitude of factors that are considered whenever you talk about a settlement," he said. "The bottom line in this case is we believe the settlement is in the best interest of the city."
Police Chief Gerry Whitman declined to comment.
The City Council approved the settlement on first reading Monday night, and it is expected to receive final approval at next Monday's meeting.
The trouble started early on July 31, 2001, at the Hells Angels clubhouse, 3257 Navajo St. According to the lawsuit filed in July 2002 in federal court, members of the Hells Angels were hanging out when numerous Denver police officers ordered them outside at gunpoint, handcuffed them and made them sit on the curb while the clubhouse was searched without a warrant.
In all, 10 members of the Hells Angels and the owner of the building filed suit in federal court, alleging that the search was illegal and that the officers "chilled" their constitutional rights to free association and due process.
Papers filed with the lawsuit asserted that police were mistaken in thinking that illegal activity was going on.
"The Hells Angels Motorcycle Club is an organization devoted to enhancing and promoting the lifestyle of motorcycle enthusiasts," the group's filing said. "The defendants harbored a belief, albeit incorrect, that Hells Angels' clubhouses are places in which illegal activities are conducted. The defendants also wrongly believe that all or most members of the Hells Angels are outlaws and criminals."
The bikers also complained in their lawsuit that some of them were forced to "partially disrobe so that tattoos and scars could be photographed." As a result of the raid, the lawsuit said, the bikers suffered "emotional distress, humiliation, loss of enjoyment of life and other pain and suffering."
City officials denied the allegations, contending that officers were justified in detaining the bikers and searching the clubhouse.
In all, three Hells Angels members were arrested. Charges were dropped against two, and the third was convicted of "disobeying a lawful order," Lane said.
Then, at a motorcycle swap meet early this year, Lane said, officers detained and questioned seven other members of the Hells Angels.
That group threatened to file suit, and the city negotiated a single settlement for both cases.
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