Goodwine Rejects “Stand Your Ground Defense” by Portofino Restaurant and Manager

Posted online 12/10/18

Civil lawsuit brought by teen in 2016, still alive

After a court appearance in July 2017, Defense Atty. Aaron Silletto told The Key Newsjournal that a motion of absolute immunity would be entered on behalf of his clients, Michael Robinson and his employer Port Restaurants (dba Portofino), because Robinson had the right to use force against teenager Queen Zion Gates because of Kentucky’s Castle Doctrine.

“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 [Michael Robinson] wasacting to stop that reported theft.”

Queen Zion Gates’ original complaint states that as a teen in 2016, she 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 Queen’s bag for an alleged missing jacket. Queen allowed Robinson to look in the bag, then “Robinson turned his attention to the other teens’’before Queen and her sister left the building.          

As the teens walked down Main Street,Robinson pursued them. Gates stopped and allowed Robinson to investigate herbag again while insisting she did not have anything that did not belong to her.According to the complaint, Robinson searched Gates’ bag twice without the jacket having been seen.

A witness reported to police that she saw Robinson kneeling over Queen punching her and trying to take her bag. The civil suit says Gates was treated at St. Joseph Hospital East for her injuries.

Police accounts confirm that the alleged missing jacket was never seen in Queen’s possession nor found the night of Nov.5, 2016.

September 17th Silletto and his colleague Bill Getty finally made their dismissal argument before Judge Pamela Goodwine. In November she rejected the argument filed by the 6-person defense team for Downtown Lexington Portofino Restaurant and restaurant Manager Michael Robinson. 

Goodwine’s ruling states, “…the Defendants are not entitled to immunity as a matter of law.”

The key issue of Goodwine’s ruling was whether Robinson attempted to prevent a theft or recover a jacket he believed was stolen.

The Defendants’ motion argues “that Robinson was absolutely privileged to use physical force to recover the property.” Goodwine’s opinion states, “It is undisputed that, according to the defense argument, Robinson attempted to “recover…stolen property”.

Kentucky Law does not protect Robinson from civil action caused during his attempt at search and recovery of property.

Judge Goodwine’s opinion continued, “Furthermore,Robinson could have called the police and allowed them to investigate the incident instead of chasing after Gates. As argued by Gates, no one employed by Portofino saw who took the jacket, and Robinson did not know whose possession it was in when he began his pursuit. For these reasons, Robinson could not have had a subjectively reasonable belief that force was necessary to recover the property.”

Atty. Bill Davis, a solo practicing attorney, defended Gates claim against Robinson in Circuit Court.

Several people attended the September 17th hearing in support of Queen Gatesor to learn firsthand about the claims.

Rev.Donald J. Gillette, Pastor of 2nd Street Church of Christ was visibly disturbed as Atty. Davis described what happened to Queen on the night of Nov. 5, 2016.

“To hear the information from the eye witness that they saw him hitting her was more than what was called for,” Rev. Gillette said.

Goodwine’s decision will allow this case to move forward to an eventual jury trial, which Gillette hopes for. “I think this is something a jury should hear. Allow a jury to hear all the facts to determine what goes on from there,” said Gillette.

Queen Zion Gates has consistently proclaimed that she is innocent and did not participate in any crime while in the building where Portofino is located or at any time that night.

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. Goldberg Simpson also represents Portofino Restaurant.

All civil proceedings are held in open court. Next date: TBA.