2 moonlighting cops accused of 'sadistic' attack at Harrah's

Roscoe Robert Coney is led to a detention cell at Harrah's Atlantic City Casino and Resort following an altercation with security guards on Sept. 21, 2013.

Two moonlighting Atlantic City police officers have been accused of participating in a "sadistic gang-like attack" that left a Harrah’s casino patron unconscious and lying in a pool of his own blood.

Officers Donnel Holland and Kevin Sketers were working as part-time security guards at Harrah's Atlantic City when they allegedly beat a Philadelphia man, according to a suit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Camden.

Robert Coney, an analyst for a financial services company in Montgomery County, said he had gone to Harrah's Pool After Dark with a group of friends on Sept. 21, 2013 for an evening of nightclubbing. By night's end, he was being brutally clubbed by Holland as Sketers restrained him, according to the suit.

The incident was captured on the casino's surveillance video system.

Coney is the eighth person to claim he was targeted for an unprovoked beating at the hands of Harrah's security guards. Earlier this week, Sean Oaks, a University of Pennsylvania neuroscience student, filed a similar suit alleging an attack by Harrah's security.

Others who have filed lawsuits alleging violent assaults by poorly trained guards include a mother and daughter from Florida, two Atlantic County cabbies, a North Jersey handyman and a computer science student. Additional suits are pending, according to Coney’s attorney, Paul R. D’Amato of Egg Harbor Township.

A spokesman for Caesars Entertainment Corp., the parent company of Harrah's, said he could not comment on the lawsuits.

"I can say that we take the safety and security of all of our guests and employees very seriously," said spokesman Gary Thompson. "Our security personnel are trained to use the least amount of force required to manage any particular incident involving unruly behavior while ensuring they take the steps necessary to protect guests, employees and themselves. "

A spokeswoman for the Atlantic City police did not return calls seeking comment.

Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian earlier this year prohibited his police officers from working casino security jobs. In an interview with ABC News this week, Guardian viewed the surveillance footage and denounced the alleged attacks.

“Beating can’t be tolerated," Guardian said. "It’s not acceptable. Violence can’t be tolerated.” 

Coney said he was far from unruly the night he was beaten. According to the suit, Coney was standing near the nightclub’s exit when a security guard approached him. She told Coney that reentrance to the club was prohibited and he had to leave. Coney explained to the guard that he had never left. The unsympathetic guard insisted that Coney get out.

Their argument drew the attention of two uniformed police officers, Holland and Sketers, who were working that night as part-time guards. According to the suit, Holland and Sketers "escalated the situation" by shoving Coney and screaming in his face. They led Coney from the club into the casino lobby. As Coney stood with his arms at his sides, Holland took a step forward, pushed Coney and then whacked him on the head with a baton. Coney fell to the floor as Holland continued to pummel him with blows. Additional security guards gathered around to kick and punch Coney until he lost consciousness, according to the suit.

After Coney came to, the guards handcuffed and hustled him to a casino detention cell, the suit said. Eventually, Coney was transported to a local emergency room where doctors treated his injuries. As an added insult, Holland and Sketers charged Coney with resisting arrest and aggravated assault. 

The charges were later dismissed after Coney agreed to plead to a count of petty disorderly conduct. 

Contact Sam Wood at 215-854-2796 or samwood@phillynews.com. Follow @samwoodiii on Twitter.

Contact the Breaking News Desk at 215-854-2443; BreakingNewsDesk@philly.com. Follow @phillynews on Twitter.