La. to settle lawsuit over taped police beating
By Michael Kunzelman
NEW ORLEANS — The city of New Orleans has agreed to a settlement with a retired teacher who sued over his videotaped beating by police officers in the city's French Quarter several weeks after Hurricane Katrina.
A trial for Robert Davis' federal lawsuit against the city and a former New Orleans police officer was scheduled to start Monday, but a notice of the tentative settlement was filed Friday.
"It was a situation wherein it was in the best interests of all parties to resolve this matter," said Franz Zibilich, an attorney for the city.
Financial terms weren't disclosed, but Davis' attorney, Stephen Bruno, said the agreement "fairly compensates" his client. Bruno also praised the city for firing two police officers involved in the incident.
"It's clear they acted criminally and not just stupidly in beating Mr. Davis and violating his rights," Bruno said.
A ruling Thursday by U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman dismissed some of the claims Davis filed against the city. But Feldman refused to throw out the entire case against the city or dismiss former New Orleans police officer Robert Evangelist as a defendant.
Evangelist and other police officers were accused of using excessive force while arresting Davis on Oct. 8, 2005. The incident was taped by an Associated Press Television News crew covering the aftermath of the Aug. 29, 2005, hurricane.
Davis, then 64, said he was walking on Bourbon Street when he stopped to ask a police officer about a curfew imposed after the storm. Davis claimed Evangelist intervened and threw him against a wall, where he was kicked and beaten. Evangelist said Davis seemed disoriented and elbowed him in the chest when he approached him.
"The video of the incident is chilling," Feldman wrote in his ruling Thursday. "While Evangelist states in his deposition that he never hit Davis in the head ... the video at best is clear on a central point: Davis was kicked (and) beaten by one or more police officers."
Davis was charged with public intoxication and resisting arrest, but the charges were later dropped. A state judge acquitted Evangelist of criminal charges, but he was fired.
Lance Schilling, another officer who was fired after the incident, killed himself in June 2007. A third police officer, Stuart Smith, faced a misdemeanor charge of simple battery against APTN producer Richard Matthews, but a state judge threw it out.
Davis also sued Smith and two FBI agents accused of joining in the beating, but Feldman already had dismissed them from the lawsuit.