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Sunday, December 10, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

City May Be Liable for Pushing Club to Brink

(CN) - A Wilkes-Barre nightclub that catered to a black and Latino clientele can advance claims that it faced harassment for attracting "the wrong crowd," a federal judge ruled.

Thomas Greco says his club, the Mines, is on the brink of collapse after a police crackdown and campaign of harassment in April 2009.

The club, which sits across the street from King's College, allegedly had few disturbances - fewer than typical for a nightclub - before the police crackdown. But authorities harassed the clientele because up to 40 percent of the patrons were black and Latino, according to the complaint.

The harassment allegedly began with embellished police reports "to make it appear as if criminal incidents were occurring on Mr. Greco's nightclub property," according to the court's summary of the complaint.

The president of King's College, the Rev. Thomas O'Hara, said that students and their parents were threatening to pull out if the club stayed open an unpunished, according to the complaint.

Greco says other administrators invited students to file complaints against the nightclub with the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, and falsely claimed that the club lost its licenses after drug busts.

One night, officers allegedly watched the club for hours and tested the blood-alcohol content of every patron leaving the club. They also approached the patrons with a drug-sniffing dog, beat up one guest and made arrests, according to the complaint.

A Wilkes-Barre SWAT team allegedly visited the club the following weekend.

Facing a drop-off in business, Greco threatened to sue and allegedly attracted police attention. Greco says he was fined $10,000 after pleading guilty to misprision, a charge against those who conceal a felony.

He and his companies filed suit against Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County, King's College, and officials within each group.

Facing a motion to dismiss, U.S. District Judge A. Richard Caputo upheld many of the claims last week.

"The complaint alleges that defendants acted out of a desire to discourage minorities from patronizing local businesses and to punish plaintiffs for welcoming minorities," Caputo wrote. "Taken as true, these allegations demonstrate an evil motive and likely reckless indifference as well."

Though the court dismissed some claims against each group of defendants, it gave the plaintiffs leave to make more specific allegations in an amended complaint.

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