Originally created 02/14/98

Venue in lawsuit changes



AIKEN -- The civil lawsuit involving a police raid that netted nine teen-agers who were drinking Kool-Aid is set for trial and has been moved yet again.

Sent from Aiken to Charleston, the trial will now be held in U.S. District Court in Beaufort beginning at 11 a.m. Tuesday. The trial is expected to last into the following week.

A visiting judge from the eastern district of Michigan, Judge Julian Abele Cook Jr., will hear the case, court officials said Monday.

David Johnson; Robert W. Johnson IV, by and through his mother, Michelle Johnson; Nicole Wilson, by and through her mother, Vicki Woodward; David Clarke, by and through his mother, Patty Clarke; and Amanda Vickers, by and through her mother, Donna Vickers, sued the city of Aiken; Police Chief Carrol Busbee; public safety officers Ted Umstead, Rodney Mills, Craig Burgess, H.V. Morrison, Mike Durell, Bob Besley, C.W. Clark, and Karl Odenthal, individually and as city employees; and Aiken County Deputy Chief Jody Rowland, individually and as an employee of the Aiken County Sheriff's Office.

The suit was filed in Aiken County Court of Common Pleas in October 1996. U.S. District Judge Charles E. Simons Jr. removed himself from the case. It then went to U.S. District Judge Sol Blatt in Charleston. He assigned it to Judge Cook in Beaufort.

The teens and their parents accuse the police of violating their rights by illegally staging a commando raid at a Stone Avenue apartment relying on information from a 13-year-old runaway and two others, ages 18 and 15.

The trio were found on the morning of Oct. 8, 1995, at the Heart of Aiken motel with beer, malt liquor, a hunting knife and brass knuckles, the suit states.

All three were released by the police after telling them the "South Side Crypts" were at the Stone Avenue apartment. No criminal charges were filed against them, according to the suit.

Later, police obtained a search warrant and raided the Stone Avenue apartment. According to the warrant, police expected to find marijuana, cocaine, crack and money.

The suit claims police opened the front door without knocking and tossed in a shock grenade, which struck Amanda. The teens were run down, tossed to the floor and handcuffed before being taken outside where, according to the suit, "the pointing of weapons and abusive language continued."

A jug of Kool-Aid seized in the raid later tested negative for alcohol.

The suit accuses Chief Busbee of asking the teens, outside their parents' presence, to sign forms releasing the city from liability in exchange for dropping charges of possession of alcohol by a minor.

The suit seeks monetary damages to be determined by a jury. A lawsuit represents only one point of view.