Saturday, September 20, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Lawsuit: Guards badly beat man at A.C. casino

He was the eighth to claim a beating by Harrah's security officers.

Two moonlighting Atlantic City police officers have been accused of participating in a "sadistic ganglike 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 the Philadelphia man, according to a lawsuit 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 with friends to Harrah's Pool After Dark on Sept. 21, 2013, for an evening of clubbing. By night's end, the lawsuit contends, he was being brutally beaten by Holland as Sketers restrained him.

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

Coney is the eighth person to claim 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.

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," spokesman Gary Thompson said. "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.

Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian 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 said, "Beating can't be tolerated. It's not acceptable."

According to the suit, Coney was standing near the nightclub's exit when a security guard approached him, told him reentrance was prohibited, and told him to leave. Coney replied that he had never left.

Their argument drew the attention of Holland and Sketers. According to the suit, they "escalated the situation" by shoving Coney and screaming in his face. They led Coney into the casino lobby. There, Holland pushed Coney and then whacked him on the head with a baton, the suit says. Coney fell to the floor as Holland continued to strike him. Additional security guards kicked and punched Coney until he lost consciousness, according to the suit.

After Coney came to, the guards handcuffed him and put him in a casino detention cell, the suit said. Eventually, Coney was transported to a local emergency room for treatment.

Coney was charged with resisting arrest and aggravated assault, but the charges were dismissed after Coney agreed to plead to a count of petty disorderly conduct.


samwood@phillynews.com @samwoodiii

Sam Wood PHILLY.COM
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