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New dates set in civil case against city

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New dates set in civil case against city
Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

WORTHINGTON -- A trial stemming from a suit filed by two nightclub owners against the City of Worthington and three city staff members will occur later than originally anticipated.


Citing difficulty in scheduling depositions, an order filed in U.S. District Court states the civil case of Antonio Duenas Pena and Jesus Leon Sr. versus the City of Worthington, Tim Gaul, Armand Eshleman and Bradley Chapulis is to be ready for trial by July 1, instead of the original date of May 1.

The trial, estimated to last two to three days, may include up to 25 interrogatories and 15 factual depositions, and both the plaintiffs and defendants anticipate calling experts in the fields of medicine and police practices.

The plaintiffs, Pena and Leon, owned and operated Club de Leones, a nightclub that was located on Ninth Street in downtown Worthington. The case stems from the alleged behavior of Eshleman, Worthington's building official; Chapulis, the city's manager of community and economic development; and an incident that occurred March 17, 2007, at the club that involved Gaul, a police sergeant.

The plaintiffs allege Eshleman and Chapulis violated their rights to substantive due process by harassing them and forcing them out of business. They also claim Gaul used excessive force on Leon during the March 17 incident.

In the complaint, the plaintiffs claim numerous members of the police department were dispatched in force in response to noise complaints, that patrons of the club were harassed and intimidated and that cover charges had to be reimbursed when the patrons left.

In the answer to the complaint, the defendants admit to having contact with the plaintiffs as a result of numerous citizen complaints. The defendants claim the plaintiffs threatened civil action in an attempt to intimidate and dissuade the city from enforcing noise ordinances.

On March 16, 2007, officers were dispatched to the club twice because of loud music complaints. During the second call, officers had to communicate by hand because the music was so loud, the criminal complaint regarding the incident states. Leon was asked to turn the music down, but allegedly told officers he was not going to because his attorney had told him he didn't have to.

He was arrested and transported to the Prairie Justice Center just after midnight, allegedly making threatening statements to Gaul, screaming and yelling. He later accused Gaul of pushing him back against a wall while in handcuffs, which he said was done with such force it separated his shoulder.

The city denies the injury, stating Leon never complained of injuries and was not transported to the hospital for medical care. Leon contends he received medical care after being released from jail.

The stipulation regarding the scheduling of court dates states the parties were unable to coordinate the taking of depositions of Chapulis and Eshleman before the original discovery deadline of Feb. 1. Because the depositions of the two defendants are critical to the case, extra time was allowed, and the deadline was moved to April 1.

The defendants recently filed a motion for a summary judgment in the case, claiming there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, but no ruling has been made on that motion.