Chuck Berry 1991

Chuck Berry asks federal court to throw out suits against him

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

August 2 / 1991

Tim Bryant / Post-Dispatch Staff

Chuck Berry signed autographs Thursday at the Federal Courthouse while his attorney stood next to him filing a suit that contends that the rock 'n' roll legend can't get a fair shake in St. Charles County. Afterward, the lawyer, Richard E. Schwartz, said: ''Starting today, Chuck Berry is going on the offensive. We're going to clear out the underbrush and get rid of these trashy people. ''A lot of the problem in St. Charles County is that it acts like an old-time country machine when it's become an urban county.''

The 35-page complaint, filed in U.S. District Court, asks that a judge halt proceedings in three civil suits against Berry in St. Charles County and award the musician unspecified damages. The complaint says Berry is unable to get a fair trial in the county because ''a courthouse inflamed with racial animus'' has ''polluted the pool of potential jurors.''

The civil suits, filed last year, involve allegations that Berry made videotapes of women undressing and using the bathrooms at his Berry Park and at his Southern Aire restaurant, both in Wentzville. The restaurant has closed. Berry was joined in the complaint by Francine Gillium, a longtime associate who ran the restaurant.

A dozen people, many of them parties in the other suits involving Berry, were named as defendants. Much of the complaint criticizes St. Charles County authorities and former prosecutor William J. Hannah over a raid June 23, 1990, at Berry's home. An affidavit supporting a search warrant for Berry's property contended that Berry was trafficking in cocaine. None was found. On Thursday, Berry said: ''The search was fraudulent. There was no cocaine out there. There is no cocaine. There will be no cocaine.''

Hannah was not named as a defendant in the new suit because of what Schwartz said was the agreement by Hannah to dismiss criminal charges against Berry in exchange for Berry's dropping of an earlier suit that accused Hannah of prosecutorial misconduct. Hannah said he would study the new complaint, then ''consider the options available.'' He declined to comment further.

Berry, who wore his trademark string tie to the courthouse, said he had disagreements with ''only a few'' people in St. Charles County, where he has lived for years. ''I have friends in St. Charles,'' he said. ''I have fans in St. Charles.''