By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
"I'm sticking with my testimony," said Reeves, who also learned that phone records undermined his assertion that DeMarco had only made one call during the period. In fact, as Dubin pointed out, the manager had also called her husband from the parking lot when she observed Thomas.
Reeves eventually grew so frustrated with Dubin's dissection of his story that he accused him of being too confrontational, tossed his microphone on the table, and prematurely ended the deposition by walking out and refusing to return.
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Reeves' credibility has issues other than the videos. In his lawsuit, he claims he was fired from Slidebar two months after the Thomas killing "in furtherance of a conspiracy between Popoff and his managers to prevent and dissuade anyone from providing information to law-enforcement agencies." Not only had the bouncer already spoken to the DA investigator before his firing, but also DeMarco had arranged the interview by supplying Reeves' contact information.
During the deposition, Dubin asked the bouncer, "Did anybody ever tell you not to speak to the DA?"
"No," replied Reeves, who was also interviewed by the FBI and, as in the interview with the DA, never claimed that DeMarco lied in her call to police.
In the lawsuit, the bouncer also insisted he immediately confronted DeMarco for filing a false report on the night of the incident and refused to remain silent with his co-workers in a noble act of honesty for Thomas' memory. But in his deposition, Reeves changed that story. He told Dubin he remained quiet for weeks because he didn't want to risk his job.
But according to Popoff and a state judge, Reeves' firing had nothing to do with Thomas. The bouncer violated company policy by allowing three inebriated women back inside the restaurant through a side entrance after a manager had ordered them tossed out; afterward, Reeves caused a scene in front of dining customers when he was involuntarily relieved of his shift.
In paperwork documenting his official firing the next day, Reeves confirmed the side-entrance incident and, in a section in which he was allowed to vent in his own writing, he had his first chance to document he was being fired because he refused to remain silent about DeMarco's police call. He declared at his deposition that he had exposed the retaliation in the paperwork. Dubin handed him a copy. Reeves reviewed it and admitted, "I was wrong." He'd omitted the central theme of his eventual lawsuit because, he explained, he'd been "flustered."
Still later, when he sought state unemployment benefits before filing his lawsuit, he didn't cite the call and retaliation then, either. During a telephonic appeal hearing of the denial of benefits, Reeves failed to tell a judge considering the merits of his firing about his alleged confrontation with DeMarco over the Thomas call. She upheld Popoff's declaration that the bouncer had been fired for "insubordination" over the side-entrance incident.
During the October 2012 deposition, Dubin asked Reeves why he didn't tell the unemployment judge he was fired for refusing Popoff's alleged anti-Thomas conspiracy-cover-up demands. "I was never given the opportunity to bring that up," he explained. "The judge wouldn't allow me."
Yet, according to an audio recording of the hearing obtained by the Weekly, Reeves had multiple opportunities to raise the Thomas incident as the cause of his dismissal—but didn't.
Instead, he spent all of his allotted time during the 24-minute hearing complaining he should have been allowed to override a manager's decision to boot the three drunken women and to argue with management in front of customers. The judge repeatedly asked him if he wanted to confront DeMarco, who was on the line, about any other issues. Each time, Reeves said, "No."
About seven months after his unemployment-benefits appeal failed, Reeves couldn't keep a job elsewhere. He found himself in what he admits is a "depressing" situation: living off handouts from relatives. That's when Reeves, who earned $12 per hour at Slidebar, filed his lawsuit demanding $4 million for lost wages and emotional distress.
After the disastrous deposition, Reeves' lawyers refused to back down. They filed an amended complaint that fixed several errors and added a new allegation: The fired bouncer is entitled to damages because he now claims Popoff twisted the ends of his handlebar mustache, and the trauma from that alleged contact is contributing to his emotional inability to work.
"It's gotten ridiculous," said Dubin. "The videos are beyond conclusive that his story is a complete fabrication. This lawsuit is completely frivolous, and there's no justification for keeping this [case] going."
Efforts to interview Reeves about the discrepancies between his story and the videos were not successful by press time.
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On a recent afternoon at his restaurant, Popoff is still incredulous about what he sees as Reeves' ongoing sham lawsuit. The accomplished vocalist/guitar player for Lit was out of town touring with his band—prepping for the release of their first album since 2004—when the fired bouncer's lawyers sent an unexpected notice of their lawsuit plans.
"They attached a cover letter that said they were going to file a lawsuit if I didn't pay them money," he recalled. "I refused, and they've cost me hundreds of thousands of dollars in business. If I were smarter, maybe I would have paid them to go away at the beginning."
Popoff—who'd been generous with the local homeless community prior to the police killing of Thomas by paying for meals and motel rooms—paused and shook his head. "But I couldn't let them get away with what they are doing."