Lexington Police Fail to Charge Adult Male with Assault in Portofino Case

Criminal complaints made against teens

By Patrice K. Muhammad, Posted online Dec. 14, 2016 11:45p

More than one month after police were dispatched for a reported ”male white attacking a female Black” and a “disorderly” near Central Christian Church, Police claim assault allegations made against the manager of Portofino restaurant by the parents of two teen girls, ”could not be corroborated.”

“To say there is no evidence supporting the claim is ludicrous in my opinion,” said William Davis who represents the teenage daughter of Abigail Gates. It was Ms. Gates Facebook live-video describing the incident that got the attention of many concerned citizens and media outlets.

An unofficial copy of a Lexington Police report, which was obtained by The Key Newsjournal, names Portofino restaurant manager Michael Robinson as a suspect in the reported case of assault involving two teens in downtown Lexington on November 5, 2016.

In an interview after the police announcement Davis said, ”Even if you don’t believe the minors, believe the 63 year old witness who called it in to 911 and has no reason to lie.” Davis has obtained a statement from a witness, Ms. Mack, that was filed as part of the civil suit he filed on behalf of Ms. Gates against Michael Robinson.

In an exclusive Key Newsjournal interview, Ms. Mack confirmed that she called 911 on November 5th. She was working in a business on Esplanade and says that through the glass window she saw a short white man tugging on a backpack that a tall Black girl was wearing. Mack said that during the violent tug of war the girl fell to the ground and the man jumped on top of her.

”He had one knee on the ground and one leg straight out to balance himself,” recalled Ms. Mack who said that the white man was punching the girl on the ground.

Lexington Police dispatch recordings from November 5, 2016, obtained after a Key Newsjournal open records request was granted, coincide with the claims of Ms. Mack or possibly another witness.

Officers were dispatched to Central Christian Church on Short St., which is around the corner from Portofino.

imagesPolice Dispatch from November 5, 2016:

Officer: Flag down reference to a theft at Portofino’s on Main.

Dispatcher: That wouldn’t be related to a disorderly down at Esplanade and Short right now would it? (inaudible) Standby. It’s gonna be a male White attacking a female Black near Central Christian Church.

Officer: That’s affirmative. It sounds like it, I’m in that area.

The next call from an officer into dispatch is barely decipherable due to loud background noise which sounds like shouting. The officer says he is in front of Central Christian Church, dispatch sends another officer and calls for traffic restriction in front of the Church “until we sort this out”.

In separate Key Newsjournal interviews last month, two unrelated female teens said Robinson accused one girl of stealing a jacket from the restaurant located at 249 E. Main St. which the accused teen has denied. The teen that Robinson accused of having the jacket claims to have opened her bag for him at least twice.

‘The manager asked me to open my bag. I told him I didn’t have [the] jacket. I asked him why he wanted to look in my bag because he just saw me walk to the bathroom and come right back out,’’ said the teen who was accused that night of theft.

After opening her backpack, she said the manager looked into it but did not see the jacket and the waitress said ‘‘they were the only Black people in there.’’

The accused teen said it was then that her sister stepped in and said they should leave.  She says the manager began questioning the other teens who were waiting in the lobby for them, but they left.

The minor girl says she and her sister began walking down Main Street toward Esplanade and realized the manager was following them. They began running and he chased them.

They stopped and asked why he was chasing them. He asked to look in her bag again. This time when she opened it, she says he grabbed it and she snatched it and put the bag on her back. The teen said Robinson pulled her hair, dragged her to the ground and punched her as she blocked his fist with the bag.

The Lexington Police statement says through the course of the investigation, ”it was determined that a jacket was taken from the restaurant and hid in a nearby area.”

On December 14, a complaint of theft was filed against a 17 year old male and 16 year old female, which is a misdemeanor.

A 17 year old female was charged with receiving stolen property (misdemeanor) and a felony charge of tampering with evidence.

Regarding the charges, Atty. Davis said, “My client did not do anything and the civil lawsuit speaks to the victimization of my client. Now my client is being victimized twice.”

As the attorney for Ms. Gates, Davis did not specify whether his client was one of the teens charged with the misdemeanor only, or the felony.

According to Lexington Police, eleven independent witnesses were interviewed along with all parties involved yet Police claim there was not evidence to support the allegations of assault or use of racial slurs by Robinson.

”One eye witness can send a person to jail. One witness can send you to the death chair in the State of Kentucky,” said Davis

Since becoming the attorney for Ms. Gates and her minor daughter, Atty. Davis says that he has not been kept up to date on the investigation into this incident.

Davis was notified by Ms. Gates that complaints were filed against his minor client.

”There was no reason for police to contact my clients mother, except to get her upset,” said Davis. “Shame on the police for doing that.”

Davis says that he sent a letter of representation of the Chief of Police weeks ago and instructed the police not to contact either of his clients by phone or at school. Prior to Davis taking the case, Ms. Gates was told by staff members of her daughter’s school that the police had come looking for her daughter, possibly to interview her without a parent or legal counsel present.

“There is no logical or reasonable reason to violate a directive of the attorney,” said Davis.

Last week, Davis prepared an appeal directed to the State Attorney General Andy Beshear.

Davis asserts that he has been unjustly denied several items that he has requested from the Division of Police to prepare a proper defense of Ms. Gates minor daughter.

In the appeal, Davis writes that the records custodian called and he was asked to submit additional authorizations by Ms. Gates and Ms. Mack in order to obtain the videos, 911 recordings and files requested. “In compliance, I submitted the required notarized authorizations…nonetheless, I was denied,’’ Davis states in the Appeal.

Activist Corey Dunn says that he accompanied Ms. Gates her previous attorney Rawl Kazee to the police department where they witnessed surveillance camera footage taken on Main Street near City Hall.

Dunn described what he saw to Ms. Gates new attorney Mr. Davis, who has been denied access to the video. Mr. Dunn has provided a sworn description of the contents of the video and that is also included in the civil lawsuit that was filed in court. Dunn said the attorney for Mr. Robinson was there too. According to Dunn, the video showed Robinson with a tight grip on the bag of Ms. Gates daughter, tugging it violently. Dunn said the girl yanked the bag from his grip, causing them both to fall before she attempted to run away.

Davis’ request to see that video tape was also denied.

“In my subjective personal opinion, if that was me a Black male using force against a white female I would be charged with robbery, which is a felony offense,” Dunn said. “They haven’t even charged Robinson with a misdemeanor. He’s forcibly trying to take her possession.”

The civil case filed by Davis blames Michael Robinson’s ”malicious…or wanton or reckless disregard” for Ms. Gates daughter as cause of her cervical strain and/or contusions to her body. The case also claims Robinson referred to the minor child as a ”nigger bitch”.

A 1977 graduate of the University of Kentucky Law School, William Davis is a civil rights and criminal defense attorney who practiced law during his service in the US Air Force and worked from 1981-1987 as an assistant deputy and assistant Attorney General for the State of Kentucky.

The police evidence has been turned over to the County Attorney Larry Roberts and the criminal charges against the teens will be heard in juvenile court.

Davis says that civil case will proceed as planned against Mr. Robinson.

Lexington Police have reported that one teen has recanted their original statement to police. That teen is not represented by Attorney Davis.

The Key Newsjournal will continue to follow and report on this case.

Related coverage: First hearing in civil case against Portofino manager Michael Robinson.

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