VIRGINIA BEACH -- Melvin Moore, the only person convicted of a felony during the 1989 Labor Day unrest, is suing the city for $1 million, alleging police mounted a coverup to protect an officer who had clubbed him in the face.
Moore, 20, a graduate of Hampton High School, said in his lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Norfolk that the officer clubbed him after an off-duty security guard had handcuffed him.
Virginia Beach officials deny Moore's allegations, relying principally on the word of the security guard, Byron Fritz, who took Moore into custody.
Authorities charged Moore with theft and burglary in the looting of the Island Water Sports shop on 24th Street.
The Virginian-Pilot and The Ledger-Star of Norfolk reported yesterday that its examination of documents and interviews with witnesses, lawyers and others involved in the case shows evidence critical to Moore's defense was changed, lost, mishandled or forgotten.
Among other things, the newspaper said it found that:
Witnesses who may have been able to verify Moore's assertions never were summoned to testify at his trial.
Police records and testimony gave conflicting accounts of the time of Moore's arrest, ranging from 2:15 a.m. to 4:30 a.m. Sept. 2, 1989.
Tapes of police radio calls that could have verified parts of Moore's account were unavailable, authorities said later, because recording equipment was unplugged inadvertently.
Police videotape that was used to document and verify Greekfest violence was unavailable in Moore's case. A police officer running a video camera on the roof of a nearby hotel testified that he did not record what happened outside the shop Moore was convicted of looting.
Beach wear that Moore allegedly took was mixed with clothing that authorities confiscated from another suspect. All the clothing was used as evidence against Moore.
The shop owner, Ron Swan, said in an interview he could not say positively whether the clothing came from his shop.
Moore was convicted on the theft and burglary charges and fined $1,500.
He could have received a sentence of up to 13 years.
Moore and his family said they decided not to appeal the conviction for fear he could get a new trial that would expose him to a prison term if he were to lose.
"After everything we had seen, we were convinced there was no way he would ever get a fair trial in Virginia Beach -- no matter how many times we tried," said Johnny Moore, Melvin Moore's father.
"And the worst scenario would be that he could go to prison until he was 30," he said.
"No way we were risking that."