-- Attorneys for two Philadelphia men who allege they were beaten by security guards at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City have called on state and federal prosecutors to launch criminal investigations into the separate incidents, which were both captured on security video.
“There is no place for this kind of brutal, barbaric conduct by anyone – let alone security officers in a hotel-casino – in a civil society,” said Michael Maggiano, one of the lawyers for the two men, during a press conference Tuesday. “It must be criminally investigated, over and above the civil litigation, and it must be stopped before someone is killed.”
Sean Oaks, a college student, and Rob Coney, an aspiring businessman, were featured in an ABC News “20/20” investigation into the hotel’s security procedures, which aired last week.
Both men told ABC News in interviews that modest disagreements in the hotel quickly escalated, and they were stunned to find themselves being tackled by a group of security guards and hauled to a secluded hotel holding room. Security footage provided to ABC News by the mens’ attorneys showed Oaks, 26, emerging from a scuffle with a gash under his eye, while cameras appeared to capture one-time basketball standout Coney, 25, as a security guard struck him on the head with a baton. Coney can then be seen bleeding from the head, with a trail of blood smearing the floor as guards dragged him across the hotel floor.
Maggiano and attorney Paul D’Amato told ABC News they believe the incidents are part of a pattern of violent behavior by the security guards at Harrah’s in Atlantic City. Oaks and Coney were among several plaintiffs who have filed lawsuits against the casino over aggressive treatment.
Harrah’s and its corporate parent company Caesars Entertainment would not provide anyone for an on-camera interview and declined to comment on specific cases or the videos. But in a written statement Harrah's said, "Our security personnel are trained to use the least amount of force required to manage any particular incident while ensuring they are taking necessary steps to protect guests, employees and themselves."
Caesars did not respond to an inquiry about the fresh call for a criminal investigation into the incidents. Officials with the U.S. Attorney’s office in New Jersey declined to comment on the incidents. A spokesman for the Atlantic County prosecutor said the office also did not wish to comment.
The shocking images of tourists being beaten or violently manhandled comes at an inopportune time for Atlantic City, a former gambling mecca that has suffered a sharp decline in business in recent years, according to Mayor Don Guardian.
The gleaming 70-story Revel Casino Hotel on Tuesday became the third of the city’s largest casino hotels to announce plans to shut its doors. The Atlantic Club and Showboat, also announced plans to close recently. All the closings are a result of a downward spiral in gaming revenue that comes as newly-legalized rival casinos have sprouted up in surrounding states.
When ABC News showed Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian the surveillance footage last month, he said he was shocked by what he saw and dismayed that the incidents could create a further deterrent for tourists looking for a fun place to spend a few days.
“This is a city that needs to be hospitable,” Guardian said. “That type of activity can’t occur. When that occurs, we’re in the wrong business.”