Attorneys ask for criminal probe of Harrah's A.C. Casino brutality claim

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.

Attorneys representing a man suing Harrah’s Atlantic City Casino for a beating he received at the hands of its security team have petitioned state and federal prosecutors to formally investigate their claim.

Montgomery County financial services analyst Roscoe Robert Coney, 25, says Harrah’s security guards, including two off-duty Atlantic City police officers, beat him in the head with a baton following a confrontation in September 2013.

“We are asking for a criminal investigation because we believe that the Atlantic City police crossed the line and used deadly force without any justification at all upon Mr. Rob Coney,” attorney Michael Maggiano said.

Maggiano and attorney Paul D’Amato on Tuesday sent letters to the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the state of New Jersey and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, urging them to review Coney's claims.

They enclosed security video of the incident, which shows one of the off-duty officers, alleged to be the primary aggressor, brandishing a baton “in a totally dangerous, deadly way that is in complete violation of state police standards,” Maggiano said.

Coney was at one point left unconscious and lying face down in a pool of blood, the footage shows.

D’Amato and Maggiano also plan to petition U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to review the incident.

“Attorney General Holder has called for a national commission to investigate police brutality, and in my view, in Atlantic County and particularly Atlantic City, it’s long overdue,” Maggiano said. “Let’s stop this before we have a death in Atlantic City.”

The lawsuit, filed last week in U.S. District Court, claims the attack against Coney demonstrates “a corporate culture that brute aggressive, physical, violent, unbridled and sadistic overwhelming force is an appropriate method of dealing with guests and business invitees.”

It is one of 11 similar suits the two lawyers have brought against Harrah’s and members of its security team, though Coney’s is the only one alleging the involvement of off-duty police officers.

Other plaintiffs include a University of Pennsylvania cognitive science major, a Golden Nugget dealer and a taxi driver and his wife.

In each case, the claims are supported by casino surveillance video, Maggiano said.

“We have established by the videos a pattern of assault which is similar in many of the cases,” he said. “How they go about attacking and assaulting the individuals is very similar.”

The suits claim Harrah’s fails to properly train or supervise its guards, a practice that allegedly began with annual budget decreases in the 1990s.

Maggiano said the cuts transformed the casino’s once-quality security team into “a band of out-of-control, gang-like men who have no qualms about breaking the law and assaulting individuals.”

Casino security guards must now undergo just one day of training and are subject to minimal background checks, he said.

“You could’ve been flipping hamburgers yesterday and today you’re a security person,” Maggiano said. “It’s absolutely outrageous.”

Harrah’s parent company Caesar’s Entertainment Corp. did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A spokesman for the company said last week that their 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."

Contact Alex Wigglesworth at 215-854-2305 or Follow @phila_lex on Twitter.

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