Infamous Atlanta street character Baton Bob is ready to sue the Atlanta Police Department, alleging his constitutional rights were violated after he was arrested in June and then coerced into making a Facebook post to his 5,000 fans that the police treated him well after he was taken into custody.
Baton Bob, whose real name is Bob Jamerson, was arrested on June 26 at Colony Square in Midtown, hours after the historic ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court striking down a major portion of the Defense of Marriage Act. He was charged with two counts of simple assault and one count of obstruction of a police officer.
After the arrest and while in custody, Baton Bob, who is gay, was able to get on Facebook and send a message to his approximately 5,000 fans to say he was treated with respect by the APD.
However, Baton Bob now says he was actually coerced by the APD to make the public statement.
Criminal defense attorney Joshua Brownlee, who is straight, took the case on pro bono after reading about it in the media. He said he wants the city to either apologize and drop the charges against Baton Bob or face a civil lawsuit.
“The police coerced him into making a Facebook statement while he was in custody. Nobody I know has ever seen anything like this before,” Brownlee said. He said this reminded him somewhat of what happened with the Atlanta Eagle raid in 2009 when officers busted into the gay bar and forced some 60 plaintiffs to the floor. The APD’s actions were found to be unconstitutional by a federal judge.
“I think they still believe they think they can do a spit and polish to cover up a culture of corruption against the LGBT community,” Brownlee said.
When asked for a comment, an APD spokesperson said the incident is currently being investigated.
“Unfortunately I am unable to comment on this incident at this time as our Office of Professional Standards investigates these allegations,” said Sgt. Greg Lyon.
The controversial arrest A police report states Baton Bob was “disturbing” security guards at 1197 Peachtree St. on June 26. The alleged victims were two women security guards who complained to police that Baton Bob frequents Colony Square “and causes a disturbance daily.”
The police report goes on to state Baton Bob was at the corner of Peachtree Street NE and 14th Street NE “dancing and gyrating in a sexual manner on the city sidewalk blocking pedestrian traffic.”
Then, when an Atlanta Police officer approached Baton Bob, the street character, well known for his salty language, said to him, “Fuck you, what’s this about,” states the report.
Baton Bob scuffled with the officer and then, according to the report, he kicked the officer’s leg and attempted to kick him in the groin. After Baton Bob was finally cuffed, the report states he told the female security guards, “fuck you, bitch” and also called the the police officer a “black bitch.”
The arresting officer, H.J. Davis, states in the report that Baton Bob soon had a complete change in demeanor and “continued to apologize and stated he was thankful for how respectful I was. When the suspect arrived at the precinct he was even more cooperative and continued to apologize.”
While in custody at the precinct, Baton Bob posted to his Facebook fans that he was treated with nothing but respect by the APD.
“First of all, the atl police officer that responded to the incident thru security has been very respectful and gracious to me even in handcuffs … I want to verify, that the Atlanta police was respectful to me considering the circumstances,” he posted.
Two months later, in August, Baton Bob took to Facebook again and said he was coerced into making that Facebook post on June 26 while in custody. Baton Bob said he dictated to the arresting officer a post to his Facebook page.
“I was taken to precinct #5, and put in a swivel chair in the lobby with my hands handcuffed behind me. The arresting officer came over and I asked him what I was charged with? He said, ‘this could have been different’.
“Other officers came by and asked, ‘what is he doing here?’ One of the other officers in the precinct poked his head out and said, ‘the story is on the AJC’s website, already’; even before I was booked! the arresting officer had calmed down by now, and said there had been a lot of bad arrest in the past, and he asked me; if I would make a statement on my Facebook page saying, they treated me, ok. I sat in that swivel chair, a black gay man, in costume with my hands handcuffed behind my back; and I surrendered. I didn’t want confrontation, I just wanted to regain some of the pride, that was taken; that day! Without my attorney, and without Miranda being read to me; I made a Facebook post to my 5000 fans, in the precinct, typed by the arresting officer, as I dictated to him; on his computer.”
But many had grown skeptical of Baton Bob after a hateful Facebook rant on the Fourth of July against a “white lesbian bitch.”
“I want say this, to the white Lesbian Bitch that rolled upon my ASS, about a friend of hers that wanted a photo in middle of my performance that ‘s suffering from Cancer, and I stated that, I don’t do posed photos in the middle of my performance;……became indignant to me !!!!!……FUCK YOU BITCH!!!!….I said NO,….. and, I meant IT,…… BEACHICH!!……GET THE FUCK OVER IT!!!!!….DON’T IMPOSE UPON ME,…..THAT WAY!!!!!…..ALL I”M SAYING!!” Baton Bob posted to his Facebook page.
Brownlee said he understands why so many are upset with his client after that anti-gay and racist spiel. But, he added, that doesn’t excuse the Atlanta Police Department from violating his constitutional right to not say anything that may hurt his defense.
“Part of my frustration is with media,” Brownlee said, who declined to allow Baton Bob to be interviewed in person for this story.
“People have not paid attention [to] the civil liberty violations but instead to the controversial character. Whatever he has done, he didn’t deserve to be treated like that by the police,” Brownlee added.
Police cannot coerce suspects to give up their Facebook password and confess to a crime on a personal page to 5,000 friends, Brownlee explained. Brownlee said he and Baton Bob want the APD to apologize and drop the charges or face legal action.
Of course, when the Atlanta Eagle plaintiffs in 2009, represented by attorney Dan Grossman, asked for an apology rather than filing a lawsuit, Mayor Kasim Reed said no. That case resulted in the city paying out more than $3 million to the plaintiffs as well as an in-depth investigation into the police department’s actions, several officers being fired, an overhaul of the APD’s standard operating procedures ― and, eventually, an apology by Reed to the first round of Eagle plaintiffs.
“Our main objective is not money nor is it to destroy the APD. Our objective is to clear Bob of the criminal charges and ensure the APD understands they can’t violate constitutional civil liberties to cover up mistakes made by their officers,” Brownlee said.