Saturday, December 27, 2014

NJ ‘computer geek’ latest to file beating claim against Harrah’s A.C. security

Story Highlights
  • Richard Travellin filed suit against Harrah’s A.C. and its parent company, Caesars Entertainment Corp.
  • Harrah’s security guards allegedly injured Travellin in what the suit described as an “egregious gang-like attack.”
  • A spokesman for the casino declined to comment, saying the company does not speak about pending litigation.

A New Jersey computer engineering student is the latest person to claim he was the victim of an unprovoked beating at the hands of security guards at an Atlantic City casino, bringing the total to at least four.

Richard Travellin, 23, filed suit in Bergen County court last week against Harrah’s Atlantic City and its parent company, Caesars Entertainment Corp.

Travellin, who his attorney described as a “shy computer geek,” joins a mother and daughter from Florida and two Atlantic County cab drivers who say poorly trained guards attacked them while on Harrah’s property. Each of the alleged attacks was captured on video by Harrah’s in-house surveillance cameras.

A spokesman for the casino declined to comment, saying the company does not speak about pending litigation.

More coverage
  • Lawsuit: A.C. casino guards attacked family
  • Travellin is a Bergen County native and senior at the New Jersey Institute of Technology where he majors in computer engineering. On Feb. 24, 2013, he was waiting in line at 4:30 a.m. to enter Harrah’s Xhibition Bar, an upscale lounge situated in the middle of the casino floor. According to Travellin, a security guard approached him and began yelling at him. Surprised and confused, Travellin put his hands up, he said.

    “He wished no trouble,” said his attorney, Michael Maggiano of Fort Lee.

    The video caught some of what followed, though the shots are obscured by the many gamblers playing table games.

    The guard smacked Travellin in the head while the student’s hands were still in the air, the suit states. As Travellin took a step back, he was tackled and fell hard to the casino floor. Other guards came running to the scene and piled on top of him, “kicking, kneeling … and pummeling him” in what the suit described as an “egregious gang-like attack.”

    Few patrons bothered to look away from their table games. Business continued as usual as the fracas wound down. Eventually, the guards handcuffed Travellin and escorted him to a holding cell. The Harrah’s video captured the raw injuries to his face.

    "I feared for my life," Travellin said in a statement provided by Maggiano. “I'm really concerned about how violent they were.”

    Initially, Travellin was worried about the repercussions that might follow the filing of a lawsuit.

    “However, what happened to me can happen to anybody,” he said. “I’m filing because it’s my way of helping other innocent people before it’s too late.”

    Travellin’s suit charges the Harrah’s and Caesar’s with assault, battery, negligence, false imprisonment, false arrest, and failure to provide a safe environment. It seeks unspecified punitive damages.

    Photographs taken of Travellin two days after the incident show one of his eyes riven with burst blood vessels and his face badly bruised.

    “They’re not rug burns,” Maggiano said.

    Maggiano said the incident was emblematic of a “corporate culture that puts corporate profits over over patron safety, resulting in inept security guard hiring and training practices.”

    Maggiano is also representing Andrea Binns, a 17-year-old woman who was visiting Harrah’s on Aug. 9, 2012 with her family when her father went to complain that their room keys wouldn’t open the door to their suite. Surveillance cameras were rolling when security jumped her father, John Binns, and later when guards pursued Andrea and her mother, Renee down a corridor and attacked the two women.

    Late last month, two cabbies filed similar suits, though through a different attorney, Jude Nelson of Atlantic City.

    Jean Smith, a soft-spoken taxi driver who also founded the Haitian Community Baptist Church in Egg Harbor, said he was waiting for a fare on Jan. 10, 2011 when Harrah’s guards attacked him under the casino’s porte cochere.

    It began as a customer began to get into Smith’s cab. A Harrah’s valet accused Smith of cutting the line of taxis. (Smith disputes that accusation and said his cab can be seen in Harrah’s security videos waiting for more than an hour, adhering to the rules).

    Smith said he tried to reason with the valet.

    “I tried to say to him, ‘What happened? You call me and I come to pick up!’,” Smith said. “He didn’t give me an answer.”

    Without warning, a guard pushed Smith up against his cab, he said. A swarm of more security guards arrived.

    “They threw me to the ground and beat me up,” Smith said.

    Casino surveillance cameras captured the entire incident.

    “I was humiliated,” Smith said.

    As Smith lay on the driveway being beaten by guards, another cab driver, Jean Eugene, pulled up and asked why his friend Smith was being hurt.

    Eugene made the mistake of getting out of his cab. More guards arrived and wrestled Eugene to the ground, pummeling him in a similar manner.

    “They didn’t say anything, they just attacked him, too,” Smith said.

    The guards cuffed the two cabbies and led them to the holding area. There, they waited for police to arrive and escort them to the local hospital.

    Due to his injuries to his back and shoulder, Smith said he was unable to drive for three months and temporarily lost his taxi.

    Back behind the wheel, he dreads returning to Harrah’s. But sometimes, he has no choice.

    “If I have a customer who wants to go there, I have to drop them off there,” Smith said. “Every time I get there I feel like something, I feel a lot scared. I remember what happened to me and I feel very very scared.”

     

    Contact Sam Wood at swood@philly.com

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