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WASHINGTON The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday
agreed to weigh in on whether police in the District of Columbia
violated the constitutional rights of people attending a party
in a vacant house featuring scantily clad women with money
tucked in their garter belts.
The partygoers were arrested in 2008 for trespassing but not
charged. They did not know that the owner of the property had
not given permission for the party, according to lawyers
representing 16 of the 21 people arrested. As such, police did
not have reason to arrest them, the lawyers contend.
The group sued the city and the officers for violating their
rights to be free of unreasonable search and seizure under the
U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment. They won almost $1 million
after a federal judge in Washington ruled in 2012 that their
rights were violated.
In a 2014 ruling, a divided U.S. Court of Appeals for the
District of Columbia Circuit upheld the damage award. The city
and officers appealed that ruling to the Supreme Court.
Officers with Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department
went to the house late at night on March 16, 2008, following a
complaint from a neighbor. Officers testified that they saw
scenes reminiscent of a strip club.
The partygoers gave differing reasons for the event, with
some saying it was to celebrate a birthday and others saying it
was a bachelor party. Police could not identify a guest of honor
or get in contact with a woman named only as Peaches who was
said to be the host.
Peaches spoke to police by telephone but refused to identify
herself, fearing arrest. Before making the arrests, the police
officers determined that the homeowner had not given permission
for the party.
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