A Missoula Club bartender charged with assaulting a patron who later filed a lawsuit claiming the incident was motivated by anti-gay bias was found not guilty of the misdemeanor charge last week after a trial in Missoula Municipal Court.
Attorney Wayne Harper said the jury deliberated for 27 minutes after an all-day trial on May 31 before clearing his client, Ryan Blume, of the assault charge.
Last spring, after Blume was issued a citation that alleged he punched Reece Pierce in the head, pushed him against a wall and threw him onto the ground, Pierce sued the Missoula Club, terming the incident a “hate-based attack.” Pierce, identified in the suit as an "openly gay" man, alleged that Blume used homophobic slurs against him.
In the lawsuit, Pierce said he suffered a broken nose, dislocated shoulder and torn rotator cuff. It also claimed the incident was a violation of Missoula’s non-discrimination ordinance passed in 2010, and that the bar was negligent in training its staff.
Apart from a response filing by Blume’s attorney two months after the lawsuit was filed, the civil case has been largely inactive over the past year. In the response filing, Brad Luck, Blume’s lawyer, wrote that Pierce and people with him were asked to leave the bar after becoming unruly, and that after being removed Pierce “aggressively approached” Blume. The response said the bartender responded in self defense.
It said Pierce’s allegations were “fabricated and appear to be purposely defamatory,” adding that Missoula police did a “minimal investigation” and didn’t interview several witnesses who would have proven Pierce’s story false.