Berry asks federal court to throw out suits against him
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
August 2 / 1991
Tim Bryant / Post-Dispatch Staff
Chuck Berry signed
autographs Thursday at the Federal Courthouse while his attorney
stood next to him filing a suit that contends that the rock 'n'
roll legend can't get a fair shake in St. Charles County. Afterward,
the lawyer, Richard E. Schwartz, said: ''Starting today, Chuck
Berry is going on the offensive. We're going to clear out the
underbrush and get rid of these trashy people. ''A lot of the
problem in St. Charles County is that it acts like an old-time
country machine when it's become an urban county.''
The 35-page complaint,
filed in U.S. District Court, asks that a judge halt proceedings
in three civil suits against Berry in St. Charles County and award
the musician unspecified damages. The complaint says Berry is
unable to get a fair trial in the county because ''a courthouse
inflamed with racial animus'' has ''polluted the pool of potential
The civil suits,
filed last year, involve allegations that Berry made videotapes
of women undressing and using the bathrooms at his Berry Park
and at his Southern Aire restaurant, both in Wentzville. The restaurant
has closed. Berry was joined in the complaint by Francine Gillium,
a longtime associate who ran the restaurant.
A dozen people,
many of them parties in the other suits involving Berry, were
named as defendants. Much of the complaint criticizes St. Charles
County authorities and former prosecutor William J. Hannah over
a raid June 23, 1990, at Berry's home. An affidavit supporting
a search warrant for Berry's property contended that Berry was
trafficking in cocaine. None was found. On Thursday, Berry said:
''The search was fraudulent. There was no cocaine out there. There
is no cocaine. There will be no cocaine.''
Hannah was not
named as a defendant in the new suit because of what Schwartz
said was the agreement by Hannah to dismiss criminal charges against
Berry in exchange for Berry's dropping of an earlier suit that
accused Hannah of prosecutorial misconduct. Hannah said he would
study the new complaint, then ''consider the options available.''
He declined to comment further.
Berry, who wore
his trademark string tie to the courthouse, said he had disagreements
with ''only a few'' people in St. Charles County, where he has
lived for years. ''I have friends in St. Charles,'' he said. ''I
have fans in St. Charles.''