Saturday, June 10, 2006

Rave arrests didn't violate club-goers' rights, judge rules

The Flint Journal

A district court judge ruled Thursday that Flint police arrests of scores of customers at a "rave" party at Club What's Next last year did not violate their rights.

Flint District Judge Ramona M. Roberts said police had probable cause to arrest those at the club on March 20, 2005, under a city ordinance for "frequenting a drug house," because there was so much illegal drug activity seen by confidential informants and undercover officers before police raided the bar at 2511 W. Pasadena Ave.

"I am satisfied the ordinance is not vague or overbroad," Roberts said, reading her ruling to attorneys for the city and for the young people who were arrested.

Her ruling means the case, which has dragged on for more than a year, is returned to Genesee Circuit Judge Joseph J. Farah.

In April, Farah sent the case to Flint District Court, asking Roberts to determine whether police had probable cause to arrest about 93 club-goers.

Now that she has ruled, a transcript will be prepared and sent to Farah, attorneys involved in the case said.

The party at Club What's Next had been promoted for months on the Internet and drew people from southern Michigan and other states, according to testimony.

Flint police and the Genesee County Sheriff's Department arrested 130 people after undercover officers and informants bought Ecstasy, LSD and a psychedelic mushroom inside the club.

About 17 people, including the promoter, were arrested on felony drug charges, with the others arrested on misdemeanor city ordinance charges.

Officers seized Ecstasy pills, LSD, the so-called "date rape drug" GHB and ketamine, an animal tranquilizer.

In arguments this week, attorney Sam Terry, representing the city of Flint, maintained that police had probable cause to initiate the raid and arrest those in the club, with drug buys and drug use in plain view.

"These were open. These were obvious transactions," he said. "They knew that a crime was being committed right before their very eyes."

Attorney Elizabeth Jacobs of Detroit, who represented 11 of the 93 people arrested, said many of those people had legitimate reasons to be at the club and were not aware or involved in the drug use.

"They went to that club to enjoy themselves," she said.

She noted that only five drug buys were seen by police - and argued those were the only people who should have been arrested. She called the arrest of everyone in the club an "arbitrary exercise of authority."

Ken Mogill, who represents several others in the case, said not everyone was aware of the activity.

But Roberts said she was satisfied, based on the testimony, that anyone who was inside the club that night was aware that illegal drug use was going on, and that such drug use was part of the culture of rave parties.

Given that, the rights of those who were in the club at the time of the raid were not violated, Roberts said.

By Kim Crawford


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