A Hells Angel named Steven Gatto filed a civil rights lawsuit this week seeking $100,000 damages, unspecified punitive damages, lawyer’s fees and injunctive relief from the City of San Francisco, the San Francisco Police Department and ten John Does. The suit was filed Tuesday and amended yesterday.
Gatto alleges he was kicked out of a “San Francisco Forty-Niner football game, which was being played at Candlestick Park on November 13, 2011, because he wearing a jacket bearing the insignia of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club.” Among other things the suit alleges that San Francisco and its police department condone and encourage police “officers in the belief that they can violate the rights of citizens such as plaintiff with impunity, and that such conduct will not adversely affect the officers’ opportunities for promotion and other employment benefits.”
Gatto’s lawyer, Joseph Wiseman, told Mike Rosenberg and Joshua Melvin of the San Jose Mercury News that Gatto’s friend Dave Tollefson, who played for the New York Giants against the Forty-Niners that day, provided Gatto with a wristband that gave him access to the Giant’s sidelines.
Kicked Out Twice
According to the suit, Gatto entered the stadium “wearing his Hells Angels patch” without incident. During the game, while walking through Candlestick Park, he was stopped by an unnamed cop and ordered “to take off his jacket or be subject to arrest.” The cop told Gatto that wearing the patch violated the stadium’s “dress code…implemented with the expressed goal of keeping fans’ ‘game day experience free from’ a list of actions, including ‘offensive clothing.’”
Gatto complied, left the stadium and listened to the rest of the game in his car in the parking lot.
“Near the end of the game, (Gatto) left his car and walked to the temporary public bathrooms, which were located in the stadium parking lot. Plaintiff locked his jacket in his car before he left for the bathroom. After using the bathroom, Plaintiff returned to the gate and was let in the stadium a second time. This time, Plaintiff was wearing a tee shirt with the words ‘Hells Angels Motorcycle Club’ printed on the back. Plaintiff made his way to the players’ area and spent a few moments talking to his friend….” Gatto was soon rousted a second time and told to get out immediately because he was wearing a Hells Angels tee-shirt.
The suit argues that the cop’s actions violated the First and Fifth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, which ensure the rights of free expression and due process, and provisions of the California Constitution that guarantee the rights to free speech and due process.
This isn’t the first time Gatto and Wiseman have collaborated on such a suit. After Gatto was thrown out of the Sonoma County Fair for wearing his patch eleven years ago Wiseman sued on his behalf in federal court and won. In that suit Gatto was awarded $23,700 in legal fees and $1,000 damages.