Defense plans to invoke controversial “stand your ground’’ law in Portofino case

By Patrice Muhammad

Robinson was manager of Portofino’s , located at 249 E. Main St., at the time of the Nov. 2016 incident.

LEXINGTON, Ky – In a hearing July 11, the defense did not file an answer nor make any objection to the addition of Portofino restaurant as an additional defendant in the lawsuit against Michael Robinson who is accused of attacking and forcibly restraining a minor in Downtown Lexington causing her to sustain injuries and require hospital treatment.

The amended complaint states, “Defendant Robinson was acting within the scope of his employment as a manager of Portofino Restaurant’’ and was “an authorized agent of Defendant Portofino.’’

Portofino ownership is accused of negligent training and/or supervision of Robinson.

Circuit Court Judge Pamela Goodwine sustained the motion which added Port as a defendant.

“We didn’t object, but Portofino will be vigorously defended by Mr. Silletto,’’ said Defense Atty. Richard Getty.

Defense Atty. Aaron Silletto said in an interview that a motion of absolute immunity will be entered on behalf of his clients Michael Robinson and his employer Port Restaurants.

Image capture of Michael Robinson (standing) in a Portofino promotional video on YouTube (date unknown)

“Commonly referred to as stand your ground law,’’ said Silletto, “most people don’t realize that the same statue also applies to property. There was a reported theft and my client was acting to stop that reported theft.”

Co-counsel Richard Getty said, “If you go after someone who you believe stole your property you are immune from both criminal and civil liability.”

Goodwine also allowed Queen Zion Gates, the teen at the center of this civil suit, to assume the role of plaintiff now that she is of legal age to do so. The recent high school graduate, now 18 years old, made her first appearance in these civil proceedings.

Gates’ complaint states the teen and her sister were given permission by Robinson to change clothes inside Portofino restaurant after completing a photoshoot in Downtown Lexington. Upon exiting the restroom Robinson asked to search their bags for an alleged missing jacket. The Gates allowed Robinson to look in the bag(s), then “Robinson turned his attention to the other teens’’ and the Gates sisters left.

A group of Black men gathered in support of Queen Gates the day after she was assaulted downtown by Robinson.

Despite contents of the bag spilling throughout Downtown Lexington as she fled and Robinson’s search of Gates’ bag twice, police accounts confirm that the alleged missing jacket was never seen in Queen Zion’s possession nor found the night of Nov. 5, 2016.

Cheryl Mack, a witness who is named in the lawsuit, called 911 from a business on Esplanade to report that a “white man jumped on top of [the Black female]. He had one knee on the ground and one leg straight out to balance himself and was punching the Black female with the backpack while she was on the ground.’’

Three teens were charged for various offenses related to the alleged theft. Due to the confidentiality afforded minors accused of breaking a law, the outcome of the investigation into the teens participation is sealed.

In open court, Atty. Getty speculated an adverse outcome of the juvenile investigation and said that he may want access to the results.

“We may have to pry open the juvenile proceedings,’’ said Getty. “If [the juvenile judge] found her guilty of a theft or other charges, then that is telling proof with respect to our defense. We’ll see what is produced under the subpoena to the police department.”

Atty. Silletto said, “There are all kinds of protections that this court could put in place to protect the confidentiality of the minor and make sure that Michael Robinson and Portofino are afforded due process.”
Queen Zion has consistently proclaimed her innocence and did not participate in nor confess to participation in any crime while in the building where Portofino is located.

Lexington Police and County Attorney Larry Roberts failed to prosecute Michael Robinson for his actions the night of Nov. 5, 2016 claiming the assault allegations, “could not be corroborated.”

Atty. Bill Davis, a solo practicing attorney, will argue this civil case against Robinson in Circuit Court.
The restaurant manager, Robinson, is defended by a team of six attorneys, three from the Getty Law Group in Lexington and three more from Goldberg Simpson in Prospect, KY. Portofino is represented by Goldberg Simpson.

All civil proceedings are held in open court. A date for the next court appearance has not been set.

The Key Newsjournal will continue to follow this story.

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