E2 owner, manager sue City of Chicago

February 28, 2008 4:04:31 PM PST
A co-owner and manager of the E2 nightclub filed a wrongful prosecution lawsuit against the City of Chicago Thursday. E2 was the scene of a deadly stampede on February 17, 2003. Twenty-one people were killed and dozens of others were injured when patrons rushed to the doors of the club after a disturbance.

Calvin Hollins Junior and his son, Calvin Hollins III, said the city was malicious in its intent to prosecute them in connection to the disaster. The Hollinses said they have lived with the horror - and the stigma that were responsible for the stampede- for five years despite an acquittal on all criminal charges in 2007. The two are asking for at least $2 million from the city and county, claiming they are victims of unjust actions by those sworn to uphold the law.

The Hollinses said a lack of reaction from Chicago emergency personnel and a confused response -- police and firefighters did not enter the club from the rear and ambulances took too long to show up -- constituted negligence.

"Calvin and his son were one of the few people who were actually trying to save lives," said Gregory Kulis, Hollinses' attorney.

Kulis' multi-million dollar suit is against the city, Mayor Daley and the state's attorneys office.

"This occurred weeks before the mayoral election," said Kulis. "We believe the Hollinses were made the fall guys to divert attention away from the inadequate rescue efforts of the city of Chicago's emergency response teams."

The father and son were charged with 63 counts of involuntary manslaughter -- three counts for each victim. A judge dismissed the charges last year based on lack of evidence.

"I think people arrived on the scene thinking that these are just hooligans and not people," said Hollins Jr.

According to the lawsuit, the states attorney pursued the criminal matter despite advice from the police that no charges be filed.

"My true belief is that had this been the House of Blues, there might have been a couple of broken legs and arms but that would have been the extent of it in any personal individual," said Hollins Jr. "We lost several personal things in the building that we own so we look at this as a racially-motivated prosecution."

There is no civil rights component to the lawsuit, which seeks at least $2 million as compensation for conspiracy, theft and punitive damages, filed Thursday.

The City of Chicago has not commented on the case.