Strange Days In Neenah

January 26, 2016

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Strange Days In Neenah

The strange and terrible saga of Eagle Nation Cycles in Neenah, Wisconsin got a little stranger last week.

Federal District Judge William C. Griesbach dismissed a lawsuit filed against the city of Neenah and its police department by Eagle Nation Cycles and four individuals: Steven V. Erato, Michael L. Funk, Wendy Williamson and Lottie A. Tucker and he ordered their lawyer, Cole White, to pay $1,500 in court costs.

The story couldn’t have gotten any more terrible. Neenah police shot and killed Funk in December 2015 during a surreal Swat standoff in which Funk and Erato were held hostage by a man named Brian T. Flatoff. It was the second time Eagle Nation Cycles had been Swatted.

Swat Raid

According to the lawsuit, a Swat team first executed a search warrant on Eagle Nation on September 21, 2012 in hopes of finding “a complex drug manufacturing and distribution operation in conjunction with the Hells Lovers motorcycle gang and suggested activities and persons in the facility as if it were an episode of the television series, Sons of Anarchy.” The raid, as the lawsuit described it, was “fruitless” but Erato was charged with 14 felony counts, including 13 counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm – although he didn’t actually possess a firearm. He spent eight days in jail and the experience contributed to the breakup of his marriage.

Funk, Williamson and Tucker also complained that they had been traumatized by the Swat raid.

Real Estate

The next day, the Neenah Fire Marshall, building inspector, water inspector and police chief inspected the building that housed Eagle Nation Cycles, several other businesses and several apartments. Erato owned the building and the inspection found numerous violations. Erato was told he could no longer lease units in his building.

The suit alleged the city was trying to “force Eagle Nation Cycles out of business. Eagle Nation Cycles is located on a prime piece of property located in a developmental district of downtown. Finding a large cache of drugs would have resulted in an easy acquisition of property for the city.”

So Erato, Funk, Williamson and Tucker sought $50 million in punitive damages, $200,000 in compensatory damages and $200,000 in lost income.


As is usual, the defendants moved for a dismissal of the suit. About a month before Funk was killed, the defendants moved for dismissal on the grounds that White, the lawyer, refused to present his clients to be deposed in Milwaukee on November 5.

White replied that traveling to Milwaukee “would be nearly impossible for several of the Plaintiffs (who) are disabled individuals, two of whom sustained their disabilities defending this Nation and its interests in Vietnam and that these disabilities have been made worse by the Defendants’ action to the point that the Plaintiffs’ have become all but shut-ins as a result of the significant PTSD incurred at the hands of the Defendants’ and their actions.”

White also replied that the defendants had refused to meet with the complainants last summer. And, finally he argued that notice of the depositions had been sent to the wrong address.

Skeptical Judge

Judge Griesbach didn’t buy it. In his dismissal he wrote:

“The unexplained failure to appear, which followed the unexplained failure to respond to three attempts to schedule the depositions, makes it difficult to believe that Plaintiffs’ counsel ever alerted defense counsel to any potential difficulties relating to travel or other scheduling matters. If these assertions were true, it would have been sensible and simple enough to respond to the requests to schedule the depositions rather than to ignore them.”

“Although the Defendants do not raise the issue, I cannot avoid noting that the allegations they raise do not appear to be isolated incidents. A review of PACER (the web based system that allows Public Access to Court Electronic Records) indicates that Plaintiffs’ counsel has appeared in four federal cases in this district, and three of them (now including this one) involve failures to follow rules. In one of the cases, which was recently before this court, counsel failed to respond to a motion for summary judgment, leaving the facts undisputed and leaving his client no chance to win. After dragging the defendants through more than a year and one-half of litigation in which they were alleged to have terminated the plaintiff due to her race – among the most serious allegations leveled in today’s society – Plaintiff’s counsel did not even respond to a properly supported and briefed summary judgment motion. In another case, this one before Magistrate Judge Callahan, Plaintiff’s counsel failed to follow local rules requiring proposed findings of fact, and also failed to file a response to the Defendants’ proposed filings. Judge Callahan observed that ‘The plaintiffs must bear the consequences of their failure to properly respond to the defendants’ summary judgment submissions and, thus, any fact not properly disputed by the plaintiffs is construed as an admission of the defendants’ proposed findings of fact for the purposes of the defendants’ motion.’ It is therefore unfortunately evident that counsel’s failure to respond – to emails, motions, letters, notices, etc. – has become a pattern.”

“In this case, dismissal is warranted not least because the undisputed failures to communicate appear to have been an almost reckless affront to normal procedures and good faith. Litigation is not something to be conducted casually. Even the mere filing of a lawsuit can affect someone’s reputation, and definitely affects their pocketbook.”

“A party cannot simply lodge allegations of this nature against city officers and employees and then deny them the opportunity to timely discover the evidence on which they are based so they can obtain a prompt disposition of them in court. Meaningful participation in the discovery process is not too much to ask, particularly when that process was initiated by counsel’s decision to file a lawsuit in the first place. Attorneys who approach litigation as though it is something to be undertaken haphazardly
do so at their own risk.”

Griesbach dismissed Eagle Nation Cycles’ suit with prejudice, which means that none of the surviving defendants can refile it. It is finished.


13 Responses to “Strange Days In Neenah”

  1. Fr. Abraham Says:

    “In this case, dismissal is warranted not least because the undisputed failures to communicate appear to have been an almost reckless affront to normal procedures and good faith. Litigation is not something to be conducted casually. Even the mere filing of a lawsuit can affect someone’s reputation, and definitely affects their pocketbook.”

    Kinda like being arrested on bogus charges after a bogus warrant search for a non-existent meth lab can affect someone’s reputation, and definitely affects their pocketbook, huh?

  2. Phuquehed Says:

    Wow. Surprising that another judge in our judicial system is as corrupt as a turd from my ass after a night of jalapenos and beer.

    Fuck you, judge (showing my utter contempt for you and your court!) Griesbach, you air-wasting shit-stain.

  3. Meh Says:

    Neenah to Milwaukee is (nominal ballpark) only 110 miles each way.

    Not making that trip wasn’t a smart legal move and unless the defendants were on life support or had other easily documented severe disabilities preventing group transport to court it’s a hard sell that they somehow couldn’t make the trip.

    DAV volunteers haul damaged vets long distances to medical appointments all the time. Their lawyer could have bothered to get a van and bring them to court with that much money at stake.

    While the SWATing is totally fucked up, the lawsuit should been professionally handled if the plaintiffs actually wanted to win. Looks like a gross case of amateur hour blew what could have been a legal victory.

    Strange indeed.

  4. BMW Says:

    Not the best legal move, BUT exactly what we have learned to expect from ANY town when the ruling elite and their thugs break the law instead of enforcing it. We can all expect this sort of harassment and Misconduct by LEO. The local Injustice Industry will almost certainly unite to protect the REAL CRIMINALS from paying for their mistakes.


  5. FXR Says:

    wisconsin courts are a joke. been there, done that.

  6. dogbreath Says:

    If you get forced into playing a game, it is in your best interest to learn the rules of said game, abide by them, and try to determine if any of them can be used in your favor.

    If needs be, a coach should be hired – but ya can’t just hire the first guy you see with a sweatshirt that says COACH, it has to be someone who knows the rules backwards and sideways. Who understands strategies and tactics, offense and defense. Balls of steel are a distinct advantage.

    When I have needed a lawyer I have lived in that mans pocket. Suggesting, questioning, demanding explanations. “What are we doing now?” “What are we doing now?” “What are we doing now?”. Might have cost me a little more money, but nothing was missed, every ‘t’ was crossed and every ‘i’ dotted. But then Again, I was just fighting a specific charge, not a completely corrupted system such as it seems exists there.

  7. Meh Says:

    When a lawyer does such a poor job I wonder whose side he was really on.

    Lawyer files suit away from Neenah, then fails to bring his clients to court.

    Either the clients were nutjobs (seems unlikely since there were multiple clients) or perhaps the lawyer deliberately dropped the ball.

    It wouldn’t have cost anything to give them a “Get the fuck to court or we WILL be destroyed!” lecture.

    Lawyer escapes blame, carries on doing business, eventually property gets sold for a song then demolished for development by local oligarchy.

  8. david Says:

    Erato, Funk, Williamson, and Tucker’s lawsuit was dismissed as the result of the hired attorney being either:

    1) Grossly incompetent, negligent, irresponsible, untimely, and therefore completely ineffectual as an attorney.

    2) Competent, resourceful, strategic, timely, communicative, responsible, BUT,
    paid a large sum of money to destroy a good lawsuit for the Plaintiffs.

    Considering the large amounts sought by Erato, the probability of the second reason being correct is real high.

  9. That guy Says:

    @ rebel
    Kind of off subject any updates on David Martinez case

  10. Rebel Says:

    Dear That guy,

    No. Not as of the last time I looked. There were some things scheduled for December that were continued. For reassons I won’t go into here, it is a tough case to cover.


  11. TX_Biker Says:

    @Anonymous, It’s an election year isn’t it…Would not be good for business in Waco if the truth came out before the election….

  12. Phuquehed Says:

    Seems to me the fucking asshole judge should have seen that these guys’ lawyer was fucking up and should have *TOLD* him to get his shit together. If the judge was at all ethical about serving justice, he’d have done it.

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