Settlement reached in Basalt bar altercation
BASALT – A civil action over a bar altercation between a Basalt man and members of the town’s police force has been settled, according to court documents.
An order signed Friday by Magistrate Judge Craig B. Shaffer instructed parties on both sides of a lawsuit filed by Ian Gray against the town of Basalt and three police officers to formalize the settlement no later than March 18. A trial had been set for July but was vacated by the judge.
Basalt Police Chief Roderick O’Connor, who was a member of the police department but was not its chief at the time of the incident, could not be reached for comment Monday. Greenwood Village, Colo., attorney Michael Wathen, who represented the town in the case, also could not be contacted.
Gray’s attorney Richard M. Wiener, however, said Monday that a number of details of the settlement agreement are confidential. He declined comment when asked if the town would be compensating Gray, but noted that the three officers have been dismissed from the claim as part of the deal. By virtue of the officers’ dismissal, they are not admitting culpability in the incident, the lawyer said. The town of Basalt is the only remaining defendant, he said.
“No one was enjoying living with this episode,” said Wiener, of Conshohocken, Penn. “It will be two years [since the incident] in August and all parties were deposed and their cards were on the table. … We all knew what the evidence was and what information the jury would be given, so given that, the interest was in moving forward with the settlement.”
The settlement comes after Gray, in July 2010, sued the town and police officers Brian Lemke and Michael Taylor, as well as police Sgt. Stewart Curry. Filed in the U.S. District Court in Denver, Gray’s suit alleged that on Aug. 15, 2009, the three officers conducted a walk-through at the now-defunct Basalt Bistro, prompting Gray to say, “Don’t let the door hit you in the ass,” as the trio left the premises.
Gray’s complaint says the officers left the bar but came back a short time later. Lemke allegedly told Gray, who was 43 at the time of the incident, he needed to come outside, but Gray refused.
“Officer Lemke then forcefully removed [Gray] from the barstool, dropped him to the barroom floor, repeatedly struck the plaintiff’s arms, brought [his] arms behind his back and handcuffed him,” Gray’s suit said, adding that police violated his constitutional rights by unlawfully arresting him and violating his right to free speech.
The town, however, disagreed, contending in court papers Gray was intoxicated at the time and that Lemke had “politely” told him he needed to come outside because there was probable cause he had committed disorderly conduct.
“Ian Gray refused to follow the lawful order of Officer Lemke, who then used a reasonable amount of force to remove [him] from the Basalt Bistro,” the town said in a reply to Gray’s suit.
Additionally, the town said that the three officers were precluded from litigation under Colorado’s Governmental Immunity Act.
Gray’s suit alleges he suffered physical injuries, including tendon, ligament and possibly other damage to his right shoulder; lacerations and bruising to his wrists; bruising to his forearms; and bruising to his right lower jaw. He also said he suffered pain and suffering, fear, anxiety, loss of liberty, embarrassment and humiliation, emotional trauma and psychological harm, “some or all of which may be permanent.”
Wiener said Gray’s position on the incident remains firm.
“Everything he has said he still believes,” Wiener said. “His views on things have not changed and I don’t believe they’re going to change.”
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