Updated: September 21, 2011 at 12:00 am
A criminal case against a Hooters waitress that raised questions about the integrity of an investigation by Colorado Springs police was dismissed Wednesday at the request of the City Attorney’s Office.
Pat Mika, a Springs lawyer who represented waitress Illysa Medina, reiterated his call for a full-scale investigation of the detectives who accused Medina of serving a visibly intoxicated patron on June 23.
But Mika said he didn’t have a “great deal of confidence” that an investigation would occur based on comments that police Chief Richard Myers made to The Gazette.
“This is a good old fashioned whitewashing,” Mika said.
But a police spokesman said the detectives did nothing wrong.
“We have no reason to believe that our officers misrepresented what occurred,” Sgt. Steve Noblitt said Wednesday.
”There was certainly probable cause to make an arrest here,” he added.
Detectives with the Metro Vice, Narcotics and Intelligence Division reported that Medina had served a patron at Hooters at The Citadel mall who staggered and used table chairs for balance. But a surveillance videotape cast doubt on the detectives’ assertions.
Last week, the City Attorney’s Office dismissed a separate but related complaint against the restaurant after Hooters produced the video.
Vince Linden, who represented Hooters in front of the city’s liquor board, said the video revealed that the patron “never staggered, never used tables and chairs for assistance.”
“What if I didn’t have that tape? How in the world would you even defend yourself from these allegations?” Linden asked last week.
But Noblitt said the video, which the Police Department released to the news media Wednesday, gives a “robotic appearance” because every second is about one frame.
“This is not a video of the event,” he said. “It’s snapshots strung together.”
The case against Medina took another twist when the video also revealed that detectives drank beer despite assurances to a Municipal Court judge that they didn’t drink alcohol during their investigation at Hooters.
Noblitt said city prosecutor Elliot Fladen made a mistake.
“The detectives were clear that in this case, they had been drinking,” Noblitt said.
Fladen could not be reached for comment, but in an interview Monday, Fladen said his statements in court and the information he provided in court filings were based on several conversations with the detectives.
That’s what he told the judge earlier this month, too.
“I spoke with Detective (Jeff) True on multiple occasions regarding this motion,” Fladen said.
Myers, the police chief, said the discrepancy was rooted in a misunderstanding.
“The officers were answering a question about “Had they been drinking to the point of intoxication in order to catch this waitress?’ and their response was, ‘No, no, no, no. It’s nothing like that. We were watching this other person drink,’” Myers said Monday.
Mika, the waitress’s attorney, said he believes the City Attorney’s Office is being made a scapegoat. He called city prosecutors professional and dedicated to their work.
“I have not had any bad experiences with any of these young men and women that work in this department,” he said. “I can only think that somehow they are being hung out a little bit.”
Mika had harsh words for Myers and VNI.
“This was no mistake. This was not based on any kind of confusion, any kind of misunderstanding,” he said.
“It’s very clear the VNI people deliberately misrepresented information that they gathered that day. We believe that the responses by the chief of police and the supervising detective in that office is political doublespeak. This is a great example of whitewashing a bad investigation.”
Medina, a petite woman who looked relieved after the hearing, declined to be interviewed. But Mika said she has endured emotional trauma and distress as a result of the misdemeanor charge.
“We have a group of detectives or VNI officers that conducted themselves, in my opinion, in an improper manner and they took a young lady, a 19-year-old woman who has a small child that she’s taking care of, and put her through the ringer,” he said.