First Hearing Held in Lawsuit Against Downtown Restaurant Manager Robinson

Published online Jan. 23, 2017

Story and photos by Patrice K. Muhammad

Defense attorneys for Michael Robinson, the Portofino restaurant manager accused of assaulting the teenage daughter of Abigail Gates, petitioned Circuit Court Judge Pamela Goodwine for more time to prepare a response to the civil complaint made by Gates. Also, attorneys asked that the Judge order Lexington Police to turn over all evidence gathered in this case.

On January 18, before a packed courtroom, Judge Goodwine heard arguments then ruled that the civil case against Robinson would be put on hold until all juvenile matters related to the case were resolved and that no demand would be made for the Lexington Police Department to release the requested documents.

“I don’t see any immediate need for this case to proceed today or tomorrow,’’ said Goodwine. The judge said she was concerned about the pending proceedings against the teens, which are based on the same evidence as the civil suit, and wanted their cases to proceed “without the interference of this case’’.

Goodwine issued a stay in the case, as the “cleanest way’’ to ensure that Gates’ daughter’s “constitutional rights are preserved.’’

More than twenty community members came to court to monitor the proceedings or to support the Gates family.

Pastor Ann Freeman, Church of God in Jesus Name, said a fellow Pastor asked local clergy to pray for those involved and she decided to come to the hearing for herself.

“I felt good about being here,’’ said Pastor Freeman. “We need to support one another and see the difference with how the Black youth are being treated versus how the system treats the Caucasians.’’

Another local pastor, Rev. Anthony Everett was also in court.

“As a parent, I want to see justice for this young girl,’’ said Pastor Everett of Wesley United Methodist Church. “I want to know all that is taking place.”

Defense Attorney Richard Getty, of the Getty Law Group, based much of his oral argument and written complaint seeking access to the police investigative file on the fact that some evidence was published on social media and in The Key Newsjournal already.

The attorney for Robinson suggested the files be made available under seal and asked the Judge for a gag order related to the release of information and statements to the press.

Goodwine declined to place any stipulation on the attorney’s or individuals involved related to speaking or releasing information obtained legally and in their possession.

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. Aaron Silletto of Goldberg Simpson sat as co-counsel during the hearing.

Lexington Police denied Getty’s requests for information before and after they concluded their investigation due to the fact the case involved minor children who have certain protection of privacy under law.

web-citizensIn December, Ms. Gates attorney Bill Davis also asserted that he was unjustly denied several items from his Open Records request to the Division of Police. Davis said those items were needed to prepare a proper defense of Ms. Gates minor daughter. However, Davis directed his appeal to the State Attorney General Andy Beshear.

Atty. Davis said in court on the 18th that he has now begun to receive some of the requested information from the Police Department since filing a complaint with the Attorney General as the teens defense lawyer in the juvenile proceedings.

Davis argued that the Defense team for Mr. Robinson should appeal the open records denial to the Attorney General instead of Judge Goodwine.

Some information has still not been released to Atty. Davis and he said that he did not know what information was collected by police or whether statements were taken without the children having proper representation because he was not Ms. Gate’s attorney when the investigation began. He signed onto the case later and appeared to agree with Judge Goodwine’s decision to stay the proceedings.

By putting the civil case on hold until all the pending charges against the children are decided, Robinson’s attorney will not be allowed access to the investigative file.

However, Judge Goodwine said that the investigative information does not prevent Robinson’s attorneys from filing a response to the complaint.

Ms. Gates civil lawsuit, filed November 23, 2016, accuses Robinson of attacking her daughter in downtown Lexington on the evening of November 5 after she left the Main St. building which houses Portofino restaurant.

That night, Lexington Police officers responded to a 911 call. Police dispatch audio describes the incident as “a male White attacking a female Black near Central Christian Church”.

Gates’ eleven-page lawsuit claims Robinson, who is an adult male, physically attacked and forcibly restrained the minor girl, without consent, in downtown Lexington resulting in multiple injuries, mental pain, humiliation, suffering and embarrassment.

The civil suit says Gates’ daughter was treated at St. Joseph Hospital East for her injuries.

Lexington Police charged two teens with theft of a jacket and one teen with receiving stolen property and tampering with physical evidence, which is a felony.

Ms. Gates and her daughter have consistently proclaimed that the teen is innocent and did not participate in any crime while in the building where Portofino is located.

Atty. Bill Davis, a solo practicing attorney, is defending Gate’s daughter in juvenile court and will argue her civil case against Robinson in Circuit Court.

A status hearing is scheduled for Thursday, May 4th at 10 a.m.

Related coverage: Lexington Police Fail to Charge Robinson with Assault 


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