Suits seek damages in Block raid Dancer, barmaid say police assaulted them during '94 club sweep

September 23, 1996|By Robert Guy Matthews | Robert Guy Matthews,SUN STAFF

A dancer and a barmaid who worked at a club on The Block are hoping that a jury will award them several million dollars in damages stemming from a highly publicized but bungled state police raid at a string of downtown Baltimore strip parlors in 1994.

The women, dancer Laura Beth Wolff and barmaid Joanne Dunay, say that they were placed under false arrest, assaulted, battered and detained against their will by state troopers Jan. 14, 1994. Wolff says that the stress caused her to miscarry three days after the raid.

Their lawsuits are scheduled to go to trial today in Baltimore Circuit Court.

Wolff and Dunay were working at the Mousetrap bar when more than 500 troopers stormed two dozen clubs on The Block after conducting a four-month undercover investigation into drug use and illegal sexual activity.

But soon after, questions were raised about the investigation. Some involved in the raid accused troopers of sexual misconduct. Some searches were conducted without specific warrants.

Prosecutors eventually dropped nearly half of the misdemeanor charges and some of the felony charges when it became evident that proving them in court would be nearly impossible.

Charges against Dunay were dropped. Police had charged her with illegally possessing Xanax, a prescription drug. Instead, Dunay said that she had a tablet of Unisom, an over-the-counter sleeping pill.

Wolff was never charged with a crime. She is asking for $1 million for each of the five charges that she alleges against the Maryland State Police. Dunay is asking for $8 million. Though both lawsuits have been combined, the jury will render a separate decision for each case.

According to her lawsuit, Wolff was sitting at the bar when several police officers stormed into the Mousetrap. She ran toward the rear stairs because she thought that the bar was being robbed, the lawsuit said.

The troopers caught up with her in the stairwell, "pointed a gun at her head [and] handcuffed her wrists behind her back." During the scuffle, the lawsuit states, Wolff fractured her ankle and foot.

Later, Wolff said she learned she had a miscarriage.

Dunay says she was also in the Mousetrap when police burst in and she fled believing that the bar was about to be robbed.

Police tackled her and handcuffed her for more than five hours, according to the lawsuit. Her purse was searched and police charged her with possession of Xanax, a controlled substance.

In both lawsuits, the women allege that the police never identified themselves when the raided the bar.

Pub Date: 9/23/96

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.