Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

African-American Tax Lawyer & IRS Attorney Held at Gunpoint by Police After Buying Pizza Proceed With Lawsuit

National Law Journal:  African-American Attorney Held at Gunpoint Will Get His Day in Court, by Leigh Jones:

An African-American tax attorney who was held at gunpoint and handcuffed by police officers after a Papa John's employee allegedly accused him of pulling a gun while buying a pizza has won an appeal in the Court of Appeals of Indiana.

Attorney Sanford Kelsey can move ahead to trial with his claims of false imprisonment, defamation, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress against the pizza chain. Kelsey, who holds an LL.M. degree from Georgetown University Law Center, is a former attorney at Greenberg Taurig and at Indianapolis-based Ice Miller. He currently works as in-house counsel for a major packing and shipping corporation.

The other plaintiff in the case is Thomas Williams, Kelsey's friend, who is also African-American and was with him at the restaurant when the incident occurred.

The July 11 decision by a three-judge panel overturns a trial court decision that granted summary judgment to Papa John's and employee Kelly Tharp. ...  The decision stems from a February 2005 incident, when Kelsey and Williams went to a Papa John's in Westfield, Indiana to pick up a pizza they had ordered. They paid for the pizza with a credit card. Kelsey, an attorney with the IRS at the time, was visiting Williams while in Indianapolis to interview for a job at a law firm there.

According to the plaintiffs' complaint, the employee, Tharp, falsely reported that the two men had brandished a gun and took money from the cash register. ...  [A]n unmarked police car was waiting for the two men when they arrived at Williams¹ house after picking up their pizza. Several police cars arrived quickly upon their return and surrounded their car. The police ordered them out of their car at gunpoint, ordered them to their knees and handcuffed them. They were detained for about 90 minutes while their family and friends watched. No gun was found.

Tharp had worked at two other Papa John's, where he was previously terminated for theft, rehired under a false name, and rehired again using his father's name, according to the decision.

Press coverage:  Chicago Tribune & Indianapolis Star.

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Tracked on Jul 15, 2008 9:45:52 PM