SAN DIEGO — The San Diego City Council today gave the green light for $1.5 million in payouts to 17 dancers who claimed their constitutional rights were violated during raids at two strip clubs.
City Council OK’d two settlements in two suits stemming from the raids at Cheetahs Gentleman’s Club and Exposé, both in the suburban Kearny Mesa. The first settlement awarded $110,000 to one dancer. The second settlement awarded about $1.4 million to 16 dancers.
The 17 dancers said they were held against their will and subjected to demeaning searches by 10 San Diego Police Department officers on July 15, 2013, and March 6, 2014.
Officers showed up in bulletproof vests and ordered the dancers into a dressing room, according to court documents. Officers then checked the dancers’ city-issued adult entertainer permits and asked about and photographed their tattoos and piercings. The dancers said the process lasted more than an hour.
City attorneys representing the San Diego Police Department asked a federal judge to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing the search and seizure was reasonable. They said the city’s sexually oriented business ordinance allows police to inspect adult entertainment businesses.
But U.S. District Judge M. James Lorenz disagreed and allowed the lawsuit to go forward, paving the way for settlement talks.
Attorney Dan Gilleon, who represented 16 of the dancers, told XBIZ the settlement was a bargain for the city.
"The $1.5 million settlement is a drop in the bucket compared to what the City of San Diego spent conducting the raids in the first place and then misleading the public for four years with painfully dumb legal denials and defenses," Gilleon said.
"From the moment the officers raided the strip clubs and held my clients against their will, it's been overwhelmingly obvious to anyone who understands Bill of Rights basics that SDPD broke the law," he said. "And yet the City Attorney’s Office did what they do best — arrogantly bullied the dancers and filed bogus defense after bogus defense until they realized they would not sell their legal charade to a set of jurors with common sense.
"The City of San Diego — from the cops to the command to the City Attorney — guessed wrong when they thought nobody would care about a 'bunch of strippers.' My clients' civil rights matter just as much as anyone else’s, even if they choose to take their clothes off to make a living."