Case of D.C. Party Bust Heads to High Court

WASHINGTON (CN) – A bizarre case the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear Thursday involves a raucous bachelor party featuring amateur strippers and said to be hosted by a woman named either Tasty or Peaches.

D.C. police broke up the party in the wee hours of the morning on March 16, 2008, after Anacostia residents a report about loud music coming from a house that had been vacant for months.

Purporting to have smelled marijuana, officers said they entered to sparsely the furnished property “in disarray.” Several women inside the house were dressed only in bras and thongs.

Denying that they were trespassing, several partygoers claimed to have been invited by a woman alternately known as Peaches or Tasty. That woman, some of the partygoers claimed in court documents, was the rightful owner of the property.

But officers found neither a Peaches nor a Tasty at the house.

When they did reach a woman named Peaches by phone, she initially claimed to be renting the property, then admitted under questioning she had no authority to use the house. Officers said the true owner of the house, a “Mr. Hughes,” told them that nobody had authority to use the house. The police ultimately arrested 21 men and women and charged them with disorderly conduct.

Several months later, however, 16 of the partygoers sued the District of Columbia and the arresting officers, alleging the disorderly conduct charges were “bogus” and that the officers had violated their civil rights against unreasonable search and seizure.

A federal jury heard the case and ultimately ruled in the partygoers’ favor, awarding them nearly $700,000 in restitution for the false arrest.

After a panel of the D.C. Circuit affirmed that verdict, the full federal appeals court refused to hold an en banc rehearing, sparking four judges to dissent.

This 16-page opinion argues that the court should afford police more leeway as to their determination that the partygoers were trespassing.

In addition to the holes in Peaches’ story, the woman refused to come to the house to talk with police for fear she would be arrested.

“Officers were required to make an on-the-spot credibility determination in a situation far removed from the serenity and unhurried decisionmaking of an appellate judge’s chambers,” U.S. Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh wrote for the dissenters.

Per its custom, the high court did not issue any comment Thursday in granting the district a writ of certiorari.

The Supreme Court did, however, grant leave for the International Municipal Lawyers Association to file an amicus brief in the case.

“All told, a suspect’s version of events is only one piece of the puzzle,” the association wrote in a brief last year, urging the court to take up the case. “Where conflicting other evidence makes it reasonable to do so, courts have held that officers can discount a suspect’s explanation for apparent criminal activity.”

Ted Williams, an attorney who represents one of the arrested partiers, did not respond to email and telephone requests for comment.