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Trial opens in 2011 Rumrunner's assault case

Casey Grove
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News Rum Runners former owner's Basilio Gallo and Abraham Gallo at the assault trial which was continued on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014. The start of the trial was continued until Monday.
Bill Roth
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News Assistant District Attorney James Fayette, left, and defense attorney Kevin Fitzgerald during the Rum Runners assault trial on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014. The start of the trial was continued until Monday.
Bill Roth
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News Former Rum Runner's bouncer Murville Lampkin, left, sits with public defender Lars Johnson during his assault trial on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014. The start of the trial was continued until Monday.
Bill Roth

A police photo of Johnny Brown's bloody and bruised face, his left eye swollen shut, was projected in an Anchorage courtroom Monday at the trial of his accused assailant, a former bouncer at Rumrunner's Old Towne Bar and Grille.

"This case is about what happens when you sucker-punch a man in handcuffs," state prosecutor James Fayette told the jury.

In his opening statement Monday, Fayette said the photo of Brown's face shows the result of an assault by Murville Lampkin, once on the security team at Rumrunner's. And because Lampkin assaulted Brown while at work, his former employers, Basilio and Abraham Gallo, are also guilty of assault, Fayette said.

ABandM Enterprises, the corporation under which the Gallo cousins owned Rumrunner's, is also charged with evidence tampering and falsifying business records. Fayette says Rumrunner's employees deleted parts of a surveillance video in a "clumsy" attempt at a cover-up.

Lampkin's lawyer disputes that his client punched Brown. A lawyer for ABandM says glitches with the surveillance system at Rumrunner's, not the club's staff, created gaps in the video.

But both sides agree on one thing: Brown's rowdy, drunken behavior led Rumrunner's security to use force in dealing with him.

Brown was drinking with friends downtown the night of Oct. 22, 2011. About 1 a.m. the next morning, he was on the dance floor at Rumrunner's, according to another former bouncer, Ian Lamp, who testified Monday. The bouncers noticed Brown, who had caused trouble in the club before, Lamp said.

"He seemed to be walking around with a mean look on his face," Lamp said.

Fayette said there was an argument on the dance floor involving other patrons. Bouncers asked Brown to leave and forced him outside, along with several others, said Lamp, who pulled another man out. Lampkin and the head of Rumrunner's security, George Damassiotis, were dealing with Brown, Fayette said.

Outside, Brown lunged at the bouncers, Fayette said. According to Kevin Fitzgerald, the lawyer for ABandM, Brown punched Lampkin outside the bar.

The bouncers threw Brown on the sidewalk, causing some of his injuries, and they handcuffed him behind his back, Fayette said. Lamp said Brown was trying to kick them, so he pinned Brown's legs. They stood Brown up and brought him back into Rumrunner's by way of a side door to avoid the crowd inside, Lamp said.

When dealing with an unruly patron, bouncers would sometimes take the person in an elevator to a downstairs room to calm down and wait for police to arrive, Lamp said. That was the plan for Brown, Lamp said.

"He was fighting us the whole way. He didn't want to go," Lamp said.

Then Damassiotis, with his forearm, struck Brown twice in the back of the head, Lamp said. That was upsetting, Lamp said.

"When I was trained to do security, I was trained not to hit people, unless it was absolutely necessary," Lamp said.

"Was this necessary?" Fayette asked.

"I don't believe so, no," Lamp said. "Because he was in handcuffs. His hands were cuffed behind his back."

With Lamp holding Brown's left arm and Damassiotis holding his right, the bouncers put Brown in the elevator facing a corner, Lamp said. Lampkin followed them into the elevator, Lamp said.

Lampkin reached over Lamp, grabbed Brown's chin and turned Brown's face backward, Lamp said. The elevator was headed down when Lampkin punched Brown, Lamp said.

"And then George (Damassiotis) said, 'Go for it,' and I saw a fist come over my head and strike Johnny in the face," Lamp said. "It was solid."

Downstairs, they led Brown to an office and sat him down, Lamp said. Lamp said he assumed police officers were on their way to arrest Brown for assaulting Lampkin. But according to Fayette, it was Brown's friend who called police because he was worried about Brown.

Ultimately, the bouncers let Brown go, and police did not charge him. Instead, they interviewed him and took pictures of his battered face.

The story from the state's witnesses, including Lamp, were very different from the one Brown told police, said Lars Johnson, Lampkin's lawyer. The fact that Brown claimed to have been beaten in the downstairs office, not in the elevator, stood out the most, Johnson and Fitzgerald said.

Johnson said Lampkin, his client, was just doing his job when he helped subdue Brown and bring him back inside, which was "standard operating procedure," Johnson said.

Brown's statements to police did not match what Damassiotis said about the assault in the elevator, Johnson said. The testimony Johnson said he expected from Damassiotis -- who has already pleaded guilty to reckless endangerment, with a promise to testify against Lampkin and ABandM -- might be tainted to protect himself, Johnson said.

If Damassiotis had not gotten a "pretty sweet deal" from the prosecutors, he would be sitting at the defendants' table and on trial, too, Johnson said.

"The simple fact is there was no assault on Johnny Brown by my client," Johnson said.

Fitzgerald, the Gallos' lawyer, also attacked what he said were Brown's inconsistent statements to police, doctors and a grand jury that indicted the defendants. At one point, Brown said he had not lost consciousness, then changed his story and said he had, Fitzgerald said. Brown also said he was beaten "for an extended period of time" with fists and chunks of concrete, which is not what the prosecutor said happened, Fitzgerald said.

"The company is being charged for the acts of Mr. Lampkin now," Fitzgerald said. "There will be no evidence that, even if Mr. Lampkin engaged in that conduct, that it occurred within the scope of his employment or that it was motivated or intended on behalf of the company."

As for the sections of video Fayette played in court Monday, showing the screen go black when Brown was led into the downstairs room, that was merely a problem with the surveillance system, Fitzgerald said.

"There was no tampering," he said. "This was a malfunction with the equipment that happened repeatedly, over and over and over again."

The trial continues Tuesday.

Reach Casey Grove at casey.grove@adn.com or 257-4343. Twitter updates: twitter.com/kcgrove.

 


By CASEY GROVE
casey.grove@adn.com