Thursday, March 11, 2010



Four defendants arrested in the September 10 police raid on the Atlanta Eagle bar were found not guilty late Thursday afternoon, and charges were dropped against four other defendants.

The prosecution argued Thursday that the club was illegally operating as an adult entertainment establishment. Four dancers were arrested, and four bar employees, including the bartender and doorman, were also arrested for not having a proper adult-entertainment business license. But on Thursday, the judge dropped those charges.

Defense attorney Alan Begner argued, "The evidence and the truth is that Atlanta Eagle is not an adult establishment, so it is not covered by this section of the code."

Police arrested eight people at the bar, four employees and four dancers. Police told CBS Atlanta News they raided the place after several neighbors complained about illegal activity in and around the club, especially on Thursday nights, when the club was known to have an "underwear night."

In opening statements, Larry Gardner, the prosecutor, said, "The dancers were dancing in the nude." Eagle owners and patrons denied that, and Municipal Judge Crystal Gaines said city police failed to produce evidence proving that men danced naked without permits or that the bar operators were running an unlicensed adult establishment.

A civil rights lawsuit has since been filed in federal court against the city and the Atlanta police department. The police department is also conducting its own investigation into the events and the behavior of the eighteen officers involved in the raid.

"We always thought from the beginning that we were charged for no reason," bar co-owner Richard Ramey, who was not a defendant, said after the decision. "They had no right to be there."

One of the dancers, Antonio Benitez, still faces a bench warrant for failure to appear in court.

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