Virginia restaurant owners Roy and Patricia McKoy yesterday were directed by an Alexandria federal court jury to pay $3 in nominal damages and $1,500 in punitive damages to three black women. The jury found that the McKoys violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by refusing to serve the women in the McKoys' Fauquier County cafe in December.
"It could have been worse and it could have been better," Patricia McKoy, 49, said after the verdict in the civil suit in U.S. District Court in Alexandria. The suit was brought by civil rights activist Lori Jackson of Dale City and her daughters, Denise Johnson and Debrah Williams.
"They're living in the past," Roy McKoy, 61, said of the verdict of the white jury of six. Roy McKoy, who has been jailed three times for refusing to serve blacks, is under a federal court order to comply with the law forbidding racial discrimination in public places.
His lawyer, John T. Zelloe, said that the McKoys serve all races in their cafe, which is attached to their home. A sign is posted in the restaurant saying: "We have been unconstitutionally required to serve people we do not desire to serve."
Jackson said she was pleased with the verdict, though she had "a problem with the nominal damages." She said she thought the damages were low because "it's a white jury, and I don't think they could really relate to what we went through, the humiliation."
Jackson said that "the money was never the issue, [but that] this outrageous action was being continued here in the United States of America in 1984 and 1985, and it had to be stopped."
In March, McKoy was ordered to serve a 30-day sentence in a work-release program after he pleaded guilty to refusing to serve blacks at his Belvoir Restaurant near Marshall, Va., 50 miles west of Washington. It was the third time he admitted in court that he had refused to serve blacks.
The jury, which deliberated for five hours yesterday, found that the McKoys had not intentionally caused Jackson and her daughters emotional distress and that Patricia McKoy had not committed assault and battery on Jackson when she squeezed her arm in an attempt to prevent her from entering the cafe on Dec. 7.
Roy McKoy testified Wednesday that he refused to serve Jackson and her daughters that day not because they are black but because they were accompanied by reporters and television cameras.
U.S. District Court Judge Robert R. Merhige found yesterday that the McKoys had violated federal law by denying the three black women access to a public place. He awarded the plaintiffs $1 each in damages, in addition to the jury's award, but he did not impose any punitive damages.
Attorney Victor M. Glasberg of the American Civil Liberties Union, who was representing Jackson and her daughters, presented testimony from six other black persons who said they had been refused service at the Belvoir in the past two years.