Virginia restaurant owner Roy E. McKoy, who has been jailed three times rather than serve blacks in his small Fauquier County cafe, testified yesterday that he refused to serve three black woman in December not on the basis of their race, but because they were accompanied by reporters.
"It didn't make any difference to me" that they were black, McKoy, 61, said in U.S. District Court in Alexandria during the trial of a lawsuit that seeks an unspecified amount of damage for alleged civil rights violations. "It's just the way they went about it."
Lori Jackson of Dale City and her two adult daughters, Denise Johnson and Debrah Williams, said yesterday that McKoy and his wife, Patricia, locked the restaurant doors when they tried to enter, while a white woman ate inside.
"It was like being hit in the face with ice water," said Jackson, who has been active in civil rights causes. "I felt I was in the '60s. I saw the hatred. I felt the hatred. I couldn't believe it."
McKoy and his wife said the women were denied entry because a television cameraman, photographers and reporters were walking behind Jackson the day the women tried to enter their Belvoir Restaurant in Marshall, Va., about 50 miles west of Washington.
"It was a staged media event," McKoy's attorney, James T. Zelloe, told the six-member all-white jury, which is expected to decide the case today.
Zelloe, saying that his clients had become "national celebrities" because of media coverage of their previous refusals to serve blacks, argued yesterday that when Jackson and her daughters came to the Belvoir, the McKoys were tired of being harassed by reporters.
McKoy has been jailed three times for refusing to serve blacks since 1967, when a federal judge ordered him to comply with the 1964 Civil Rights Act and allow blacks to be served in his 30-seat cafe.
Before each brief jail term -- in 1967 and 1974 and most recently in March after the incident with Jackson and her daughters -- McKoy has admitted in court that he specifically refused service to blacks because of their race.
McKoy did not deny yesterday two witnesses' testimony that he had posted a sign in his restaurant reading: "We have been unconstitutionally required to serve people we do not desire to serve."
Jackson and her daughters are not seeking a specific monetary amount, but are asking the jury to award "appropriate damages."
Jackson, referring to Patricia McKoy, told the jury that when the three women tried to enter the restaurant, "She squeezed my arm. She pushed me . . . . I fell into Debbie and Debbie fell into Denise."
But more damaging than the bruises left on her arm, Jackson said, were the pains of trying to explain to her daughters and grandchildren why blacks were prohibited from entering a restaurant.
Attorney Victor M. Glasberg, who is working with the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the three women, said yesterday that "anyone with common sense could see the contradiction" in McKoy's testimony yesterday in light of his previous federal court testimony.
Patricia McKoy, 49, said, "I didn't think about race. I just thought about reporters."
Under intense questioning about the restaurant's admittance policy, Patricia McKoy said the Belvoir did not currently have one. However, when asked if she ever denied blacks admittance, she responded: "I don't deny we have turned down Negroes."
Pressed further when Glasberg asked, "Did you turn them down because they were Negro?" McKoy replied: "Yes."