An employee of Portofino restaurant in downtown Lexington is named as a defendant in a civil lawsuit that seeks damages for battery and false imprisonment against a teen-age girl during an alleged incident on Nov. 5.
Abigail Gates, mother of the girl, alleges in the suit that Michael Robinson “physically attacked” the girl “when he used his hands to savagely beat her in downtown Lexington.”
The suit does not name the restaurant or its owners as defendants. Lexington attorney Richard Getty, who represents Robinson and Portofino, said: “I don’t think there is any basis for the claims. … Based on what I have seen in terms of evidence, I do not believe there is any basis to have in good faith asserted these claims. I believe, ultimately, at the appropriate time, the court will dismiss them.”
The suit, filed Wednesday in Fayette Circuit Court, also alleges that Robinson attempted to take away a backpack from the girl “in a harmful and/or unlawful offensive manner.”
The suit alleges that Robinson committed false imprisonment when he “with malice unlawfully and forcefully physically restrained” the girl “so that she was not free to leave.”
The suit claims that Robinson called the girl and her 16-year-old sister “nigger bitches” in their presence.
William L. Davis, the Lexington attorney who filed the suit on behalf of Gates, could not be immediately reached Monday for comment.
No one has been charged in the case, and police are waiting for surveillance video from nearby Chase Bank, said police spokeswoman Brenna Angel. Robinson is still employed by Portofino, Getty said.
The incident allegedly happened after a fashion photo shoot near the Main Street restaurant. Three black Henry Clay High School students claimed that a white manager from Portofino accused them of stealing a jacket before chasing them on foot through part of downtown Lexington.
“Michael Robinson, as an agent of Portofino, had an absolute right to pursue and retrieve or attempt to retrieve the jacket that was stolen,” Getty said. He cited a Kentucky law that says physical force is justifiable when a person believes that such force “is immediately necessary” to prevent a robbery, burglary or other felony.
Getty said a third girl gave a statement to police acknowledging the jacket had been taken and was in the backpack of another girl. “There’s not any question the jacket was stolen and did end up in that bag,” Getty said.
The jacket was later found inside a cigarette butt receptacle by a maintenance person affiliated with Chase Bank, Getty said.
The mother of the third girl went to Portofino restaurant owner Wayne Masterman and apologized to him, Getty said. The mother “told Wayne Masterman that her daughter had basically recanted and (the daughter) also said that nobody laid a hand on her,” Getty said.
The third girl had suffered a head wound after tripping over a chain that blocked off an entrance to Chase Bank on Esplanade, Getty said.
Videos already in the possession of police and seen by Getty show “nothing more than Michael Robinson using reasonable force to try and retrieve the jacket,” Getty said.
Getty said he believes Abigail Gates saw the same evidence. “They saw the same videos that showed absolutely nothing inappropriate in terms of action by my client or anyone else, and they still went out and filed this lawsuit,” Getty said.
Getty also said Robinson did not use racial epithets against Gates’ daughter.
The suit says Gates’ daughter suffered a cervical strain, contusions to her body, physical pain and suffering and mental pain and suffering. The girl received “healthcare attention” at St. Joseph East Hospital, the suit says.
The suit seeks, among other things, compensatory and punitive damages, court costs and a trial by jury. The case has been assigned to Fayette Circuit Court Judge Pamela Goodwine.
Meanwhile, Robinson was listed as a victim in a general investigative report released Monday by Lexington police after the Herald-Leader filed an open records request.
The report says that police investigated a report of third-degree terroristic threatening on Nov. 5 after “unknown suspects threatened to commit crimes that would likely result in the death or serious physical injury to” Robinson.
Another report says that Robinson told police that “unknown subjects assaulted him causing minor injury.”
That report also says a woman told police that “an unknown subject unlawfully took her coat from her place of employment. The value of the coat is $68.”