FW Moves Forward With Rainbow Lounge Prosecutions

Defense attorney says he is surprised criminal charges aren't dropped

City prosecutors in Fort Worth on Wednesday decided to press ahead with criminal charges against at least two patrons of a gay bar who were arrested during a controversial police raid last summer.

Chad Gibson, who received a serious head injury while in custody, and George Armstrong appeared for the first time in Fort Worth Municipal Court. Several of the officers who were there that night sat on the opposite side of the courtroom.

Gibson is charged with public intoxication and with assaulting a state agent by allegedly groping him. Armstrong is charged with public intoxication. The intoxication and assault charges are both misdemeanors.

Adam Seidel, the attorney for both men, said his clients were unwilling to accept a plea bargain and asked the case to be set for trial.

He declined to say specifically if prosecutors offered a deal, but said he was surprised they did not drop the charges entirely.

"The city's message has been, ‘Let's learn from this and move forward and get past it,’” Seidel said. “That doesn't seem to be consistent with prosecuting these two victims."

City prosecutor Saleemah Jones declined to comment.

The June 28 raid on the Rainbow Lounge, which police said started as a simple “bar check,” drew immediate protests from gay activists and led to internal inquiries by Fort Worth police and the Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission.

Citing multiple procedural violations, TABC fired its two agents who participated in the raid.

Fort Worth police chief Jeff Halstead apologized repeatedly and acknowledged his officers had no reason to raid the newly opened bar and were disrespectful and overly aggressive. Three officers, including the sergeant who led the operation, received short suspensions.

The investigations, however, concluded the officers did not use excessive force.

Gibson was hospitalized for a week after officers said he fell and hit his head while handcuffed. He said his injury was the result of a scuffle with officers inside the bar. The police investigation said an independent witness backed up the officers' account.

Former TABC Agent Chris Aller said Gibson brushed his hands across the front of his pants while he was being arrested on suspicion of public intoxication, and Gibson was also charged with assault.

After the brief court hearing Wednesday, Aller said he stands by the allegation.

”It was deliberate,” he said. “He knowingly and intentionally smacked me, so we’ll see what the court says.”

In an interview after returning home from the hospital, Gibson admitted he was drunk that night but denied assaulting the agent.

Sgt. Richard Morris, a police veteran who led the raid, spoke briefly as he left the courtroom.

"It's supposed to go to trial before too long," he said.

Asked if he thought the criminal prosecution should move forward, he said, "That, I don't know. I don't know if they are going to plea... We'll just have to find out."

The case drew international attention because it occurred on the 40th anniversary of a police raid on a gay bar in New York City that led to the modern gay rights movement.

The Fort Worth review found that the officers were unaware of that anniversary and did not target the Rainbow Lounge because of its gay clientele.

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