Securing Bars and Clubs after NY Incident

April 14, 2006
Woman's death after leaving SoHo bar prompts council to propose revamp of security at nightspots

Citing the brutal February slaying of Manhattan graduate student Imette Saint-Guillen, the City Council yesterday proposed revamping security at city bars and clubs and ensuring that any law-breaking nightspots face stiff fines.

"There is no enforcement," said Councilman David Yassky (D-Brooklyn), standing with other elected officials outside The Falls bar in SoHo, where Saint-Guillen was last seen alive in the early morning of Feb. 25. "We need the city to make sure that bars have done what they are supposed to do."

The State Liquor Authority, which licenses bars, restaurants, clubs and lounges, prohibits nightspots from hiring ex-felons to work as bouncers and issued weighty fines last year to 29 establishments statewide that did so.

Darryl Littlejohn, 41, of South Jamaica, an ex-con who worked as a bouncer at The Falls, is charged with first-degree murder involving sexual abuse and second-degree murder in the death of Saint-Guillen, who was a student at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. The 24-year-old's nude body was found on the evening of Feb. 25, wrapped in a comforter and dumped in a remote area off the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn. She had been raped, her feet bound, her mouth gagged and her head completely wrapped in tape, officials said.

Littlejohn has pleaded not guilty. His employment at The Falls was at once a violation of his parole - he has an extensive record of felony convictions and most recently served prison time for an armed bank robbery - and a breach of the bar owner's license, officials have said. He is being held without bail.

It was not clear yesterday whether The Falls has faced penalties in relation to its employment of Littlejohn.

The new penalties proposed by council members focus on employment of ex-cons and would allow the city to levy a $5,000 fine against a bar or club for a first offense and double that for a second offense. Existing state penalties include license revocation, a $10,000 fine, and a two-year ban from re-licensing.

In addition to the fines, the council members proposed expanding the department's Paid Detail Unit - a program that allows off-duty officers to work as private security at such venues as Yankee Stadium - to include bars and restaurants.

At a recent City Council hearing, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly expressed some reservations about using off-duty police officers to patrol bars and restaurants. A department spokesman did not immediately comment yesterday.

Prosecutors have called Littlejohn "a person of interest" in several other crimes, including several rapes in Queens and one on Long Island. A law enforcement source said yesterday that no charges have been filed in those cases, which remain open.