Hells Angels come out swinging, sue police for raid of 3rd St. club
By Albert Amateau
Hells Angels motorcycle club members filed a federal civil suit last week charging the New York City Police Department with violating constitutional guarantees against unreasonable search and seizure in connection with the Jan. 29 raid on their East Village clubhouse and the arrest and detention of one of the bikers.
Attorney Ron Kuby, who won settlements totaling $700,000 from the city for Hells Angels members in similar lawsuits in 1998 and 2000, filed the latest action seeking unspecified monetary damages on behalf of 10 men and three women residents of the clubhouse at 77 E. Third St.
The lawsuit cites Frank Vega, identified as a Ninth Precinct detective, and John Doe and Jane Doe, two otherwise unidentified detectives, as well as the city and the police department. The suit contends New York City Hells Angels members and the E. Third St. clubhouse “have long been targets of unwarranted intimidation, harassment, surveillance and seizures by the New York City Police Department.”
The Jan. 29 raid occurred during the police investigation of the beating of a woman found about 18 hours earlier on the sidewalk near the clubhouse. Police armed with automatic weapons and accompanied by a hostage negotiating team and an Emergency Medical Unit and with helicopters overhead, entered the clubhouse with two search warrants.
When the police left, they took a resident, Richard West, in handcuffs; several canisters of nitrous oxide, used to supercharge motorcycle fuel, and oxygen, used in oxyacetylene welding; and the clubhouse’s door. Nine hours later, West was freed and his arrest was voided, and no charges were filed.
The lawsuit charges that the plaintiffs’ apartments and storerooms were rifled, and doors, fixtures and furniture were destroyed or damaged. The suit charges the warrants did not properly specify the subjects of the search and that West was arrested without cause.
The circumstances of the raid, not mentioned in the lawsuit, involve the victim, Roberta Shalaby, a Brooklyn resident who was found on the sidewalk slipping in and out of consciousness Sunday morning Jan. 28. She was taken to Bellevue Hospital where she underwent surgery to relieve pressure on the brain and woke up with no memory of what had happened.
Police investigating the incident that Sunday morning were denied entrance when they knocked on the door of 77 E. Third St. and were told to get a warrant, according to newspaper reports.
Shalaby had been celebrating her 52nd birthday at The Edge, an E. Third St. bar, that night when she got into a drunken argument with the girlfriend of a visiting biker, according to newspaper articles. She then went to the clubhouse, banged on the door and demanded to be let in, according to reports.
At a news conference in front of the E. Third St. house after the raid, Brendan Manning, president of the clubhouse, said members had not been at The Edge on the night in question and denied any knowledge of the beating. Bart Dowling, another member, was quoted as saying, “We are bad guys, no doubt. We don’t pretend to be saints. But we don’t beat up freakin’ women.”
Mark Rich, owner of The Edge, told reporters that Hells Angels do frequent his bar but had not been there the night in question. He said the victim had been acting strangely and left the bar.
In addition to West, the plaintiffs include Cynthia Jordan, identified as living in the same apartment as West at the E. Third St. club; Daniel Canales and Barbara Heckman, who share one of the apartments; Paul Casey and Kimberly Clossick, who share another apartment; Steve Bonge; Domingo Buster; Kevin Lalka; Lawrence Garcia; Scott Newton; Manning and Dowling.