Suit refiled against Atlanta cop accused of assault at IHOP

A woman who has a filed lawsuit against an off-duty Atlanta police officer, accusing him of attacking her and a friend three years ago in a Buckhead IHOP, believes the officer should now be arrested for assault.

“If we pinned somebody up against the wall and assaulted her, they would arrest us,” said Harry Daniels, the new attorney for the woman. “It makes no difference in him having that uniform. He actually should be held to a higher standard.”

His client, Roberta Caban, is petitioning the magistrate court for arrest warrants against APD Officer Jose Vidal for battery and false imprisonment, Daniels said. He expects a hearing on the matter by August.

Vidal was cleared by the Atlanta Police Department’s office of professional standards, which concluded he used a reasonable amount of force, given the circumstances.

Daniels refiled Caban’s 2013 lawsuit last Wednesday, a legal requirement because he was replacing the Caban’s former attorney on the case.

The lawsuit accuses Vidal and IHOP’s parent company.

Caban described a violent assault that ended with a false arrest and she and two friends being falsely imprisoned in a holding cell at the Fulton County jail where she said they were forced to go to the bathroom before hardened male criminals.

Vidal was moonlighting off-duty as a security guard at the now defunct IHOP, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit contends that Vidal overreacted from the beginning of the 2011 confrontation, which began when he asked Caban and two friends to quiet down. It escalated into a physical confrontation and resulted in Vidal slugging a woman who was not with the party but was recording the drama with her cellphone video.

The story and the videos went viral on the Internet in 2011 — and resulted in an APD investigation which ultimately cleared the officer of wrongdoing. Vidal's police report and the statement of witnesses were almost diametrically opposed and outlined in a previous Atlanta Journal Constitution story when the first lawsuit was filed.

The lawsuit contends that Vidal trapped Caban in the booth and was ramming her against the wall and striking her with his fist.

“Defendant Vidal became angry and enraged,” the lawsuit said.”Each time Ms. Caban was rammed into the wall she cried out in distress.”

According to Vidal’s arrest report, Cynthia Freeman, one of Caban’s friends, was “yelling at another booth. He wrote that he warned her not to talk so loud and that, if she continued, she’d be asked to leave. Eventually he did just that, but the women refused.

Freeman “started throwing punches at my body to stop me from arresting her,” the report said. At that point, Ashley Leavell walked over to the booth and told Vidal to leave Freeman alone, according to the officer.

“Ms. Leavell punched me in the left side of my face, I returned the punch and struck her in her face,” the report stated.

Vidal used his police radio to call for additional officers, and Freeman "started throwing punches at my body to stop me from arresting her," the report said.

Vidal was cleared by the Atlanta Police Department's office of professional standards, which concluded he used a reasonable amount of force, given the circumstances.

Leavell was arrested.

Caban and Freeman and another woman who was in the booth with them was also arrested.

An attorney who represented three of the women arrested after the fight said the police reports written about that incident are "riddled with inaccuracies."

Daniels said a jury should sort out which of the contending versions was more true. The lawsuit asks for unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.