HOUSTON (CN) – A federal jury cleared singer Patti LaBelle and her bodyguard of civil liability for a fight with a former West Point cadet at a Houston airport.
Richard King sued LaBelle, her son and manager, Zuri Edwards, her 400-pound bodyguard, Efrem Holmes, and her hairstylist, Norma Harris, alleging that the pop icon ordered her entourage to assault him because he was standing too close to her luggage at George Bush Intercontinental Airport.
The altercation happened when King was waiting for his family to pick him up after arriving in Houston for Spring Break on March 11, 2011.
“Apparently, LaBelle believed King was standing too close to her (no doubt expensive) luggage, even though he was oblivious to her presence and the danger he was in,” King said in his complaint in Harris County Court. “LaBelle lowered the window of her limousine and gave a command to her body guards. They sprang into action.”
In the lawsuit, King claimed that LaBelle watched “with approval” as her cohorts punched his face and knocked him down against a concrete pillar.
The case was removed to federal court in June 2011 and went to trial Sept. 16.
During the trial, LaBelle’s defense attorney Geoffrey Bracken told jurors King had initiated the confrontation by punching Edwards, spewing racial epithets at LaBelle and trying to open her limo door, the Associated Press reported.
King’s attorney John Raley told jurors his client’s blood alcohol level was 0.28, more than three times the legal limit to drive, but that he was not endangering anyone when he was assaulted, according to the Associated Press.
Bracken blamed King’s alcohol intake for the melee. He placed a large bottle of Jack Daniels on a table during the proceedings and said “This is how much alcohol he had in his system,” the AP reported.
King allegedly suffered brain injuries that forced him to drop out of West Point from the assault.
But Bracken said King did not complete his studies at West Point because of his bad grades. Raley played jurors security footage of the altercation that shows Holmes slamming King like a rag doll against a concrete pillar at the airport.
But jurors came back with a not guilty verdict Tuesday after nearly 12 hours of deliberations.
The verdict surprised King’s attorney.
“We’re stunned. The video tape seemed very clear to everyone we’ve shown it to and seemed quite compelling. So we really have no explanation for this,” John Raley told Houston’s CBS affiliate KHOU-TV.
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