Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Outrageous Manassas Park law enforcement raid on Rack n' Roll Billiards Club

From the Agitator:

On June 2, 2004, police in the the Washington, D.C. exurb of Manassas Park, Virginia brought in a multi-jurisdictional narcotics tax force and officers from several surrounding cities and counties to conduct a massive, 70-90 officer SWAT raid on the Rack n' Roll Billiards Club.

The raid took place on Ladies' Night, a Wednesday. Though the intent of the raid was to collect evidence of drug use and drug distribution by David Ruttenberg, the club's manager, it was conducted under the auspices of an Alcohol Beverage Control inspection. Because ABC is primarily a regulatory agency, the guise of an ABC inspection enabled the raid to take place without a search warrant.

After hours of scouring the club, searching every nook and cranny, and generally turning the place upside down, the only charges to follow against Ruttenberg were for two bottles of beer a distributor had left for sampling that weren't clearly marked "SAMPLE." The bar would later be charged with a few other minor offenses: one incident of serving alcohol to a minor, and with several incidents of flashing from customers during Mardi Gras.

The account at The Agitator goes on to describe continued police harassment of Ruttenberg. Radley Balko suggests that this all began because David Ruttenberg and a Manassas Park police officer (who is now head of the narcotics task force) had a romantic interest in the same woman, and that the continued harassment is an attempt to find a post facto reason to justify the original outrageous raid. If that's correct, the law enforcement officials responsible for this should not only be fired, they should be jailed.

UPDATE (December 19, 2006): Things are not looking good for Ruttenberg, as Radley Balko has described. And it looks like there's serious corruption in Manassas Park.

UPDATE (December 23, 2006): Balko presents evidence that the harrassment of David Ruttenberg has to do with the fact that he's sitting on the prime location for off-track betting in Manassas Park, which could potentially bring in tens of millions of dollars of revenue for the city. The harassment began four months before a referendum on the matter, which was defeated.

UPDATE (December 31, 2006): Here's video footage that depicts two men openly using cocaine in Ruttenberg's bar. He calls police, who refuse to take witness statements, escort the men outside, and let them go. (More info at The Agitator.)

UPDATE (January 8, 2007): And here's a link to some more video of harassment.

UPDATE (January 11, 2007): And here's some more background information on the harassment of David Ruttenberg, where a violent incident at another pool hall across town was added to a report about Rack and Roll.

UPDATE (September 11, 2007): Radley Balko reports that the appropriately-titled vice mayor of Manassas Park, who also worked as a DJ at Rack and Roll, was encouraging lewd behavior and nudity in the club which he photographed, and which ended up in a file in the possession of the city which was used to motivate officials to go after the club. At the same time, however, the city denied the existence of the file when Ruttenberg inquired after it, and Ruttenberg, to the extent he was aware of the activities in question, attempted to prevent them from happening.

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