P.G. dance-hall owners facing charges, negligence lawsuit

Two operators of a Capitol Heights-area nightclub that was the site of a deadly drive-by shooting are expected to plead guilty Wednesday to violating Prince George’s County’s newly enacted law governing dance halls, prosecutors said.

The family of the young woman killed outside Music, Sports and Games, or MSG, also plans to file a lawsuit against the club in the coming weeks, the family’s attorney said.

Previously, two managers of MSG pleaded guilty to the charge of operating a dance hall without a license, and each received probation. The last two men charged in the case, Darryl Robinson and Eric Pickens, are due in Prince George’s County District Court on Wednesday.

After the Aug. 8 shooting outside the club that injured a 19-year-old man and killed 20-year-old Jasmine Banks, police utilized the statute, then two weeks old, to criminally charge the four men and padlock MSG.

Police and elected officials have championed the dance-hall law used to shutter the club as a way to reduce crime in the county, as it allows for the quick closure of clubs that are scenes of violent incidents. Many of those same supporters, including Police Chief Mark A. Magaw and County Council member Karen R. Toles, who sponsored the legislation, have been invited by Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela D. Alsobrooks to speak at a press conference after the Wednesday hearing.

Also expected to attend are family members of Banks, who plan to file a civil lawsuit against the club and club owners, said the family’s attorney, Stan Brown.

The lawsuit, which will seek $2 million in damages, will be filed alongside a previous lawsuit against MSG that accuses the club and club employees of negligence when a man was beaten so severely in the parking lot of the club that he was paralyzed. In that 2010 incident, bouncers inside the club — then known as Le Pearl Ballroom — did not advise security in the parking lot that a fight had happened inside the club or escort the man who was attacked, Dominic McIntyre, to his car, the lawsuit states.

“One of the reasons it hasn’t been shut down sooner is they change their name every time an incident occurs,” said Mr. Brown, who praised the dance-hall legislation as a way to finally hold problem clubs accountable. “In reality, they are all the same entity.”

Club owners, including those who are expected to plead guilty Wednesday, have been unsuccessful in attempts to fight the dance-hall legislation in court thus far. They say officials have been unfair in their enforcement of the law.

Despite the previous and expected guilty pleas, an attorney representing Mr. Robinson said the criminal charges and opposition to the dance-hall legislation should not be confused.

“A plea to these charges does not legitimize the constitutionality of the statute,” lawyer William Sherman said. “The statute can still be challenged. These are separate criminal proceedings.”

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