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Attorney promises Just Wing It lawsuit

Written by Daniel Walmer/Lebanon Daily News | Feb 7, 2017 7:25 AM
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Cathy Kumar speaks during a press conference on Monday, Feb. 6, 2016. Ricky Bugg Sr. and Kumar announced a non-profit they have formed Dare 2 Care to Heal Racism Foundation.(Photo: Jeremy Long, Lebanon Daily News)

Suit will allege restaurant broke state and federal law by refusing service on the basis of race

(Annville) -- Ricky Bugg Jr. plans to file a federal lawsuit against an Annville restaurant and its owners for allegedly denying him service on the basis of his race, an attorney representing him announced Monday.

The basis for the lawsuit stems from an incident at Just Wing It at 18 E. Main St. in Annville on Sunday, Jan. 22. According to Bugg, he was waiting for wings with a friend when Chris Behney, founder of the Just Wing It brand, called him the n-word and told him "we don't need you n-----s," instructing him to leave.

Behney told a different story on Jan. 30, saying the students were only told to leave after causing a disturbance in the restaurant, for which Just Wing It employees called police. Annville Township Police decided not to file charges against either Behney or Bugg.

Attorney Clarke Madden of Harrisburg-based Smigel, Anderson & Sacks announced the lawsuit during a news conference with Bugg's family and friends Monday afternoon in a Hershey Public Library meeting room.

The suit, which will ultimately be filed in U.S. District Court, while be based on the alleged refusal of service and focus on federal civil rights and state public accommodation laws, Madden said. It will be filed against Chris Behney, Just Wing It Annville, and the restaurant's owners, he said.

"Our rights enlarge or diminish to the extent that we exercise them," he said. "We have to give them the name of action in order for them to be meaningful."

Behney and Bugg's father - Ricky Bugg Sr. - embraced after Behney told his side of the story on Jan. 30 and asked Bugg Sr. to work together with him to create a positive out of the situation. However, Bugg Sr. said at the time that he still believed his son's version of events and wanted to get to the truth.

Madden said Monday that he has advised his client to no longer speak publicly about the details of the case for the present time because of the pending litigation.

Bugg Jr.'s story was corroborated by friend Jack Gunkel, who was present when the incident occurred. Behney's version of events was supported by Nikki Meyer, who identified herself as the owner of Just Wing It Annville and was also present. However, Lebanon Valley College Dean of Students Gregory Krikorian said it differed substantially from an account Meyer gave him the night of the incident.

Reached by phone Wednesday, Behney declined to provide any comments about the threatened lawsuit.

Dare2Care to Heal Racism Foundation

Bugg Sr. also used the news conference as an opportunity to announce the creation of a new non-profit foundation for fighting racism.

"We're in a position where, yes, we've been dealt a lemon. But guess what? We're going to make lemonade. And, guess what, it's going to be good lemonade, so you've got to get some of it," he said.

The Dare2Care to Heal Racism Foundation - co-founded by Bugg Sr. and Cathy Kumar, who reached out to Bugg Sr. after her daughter alerted her to the Just Wing It situation - will be to heal race relations through events that promote interracial interaction, education and legislation, Bugg Sr. said.

"How do we really get to know one another unless we spend time together?" he asked. "Otherwise, we spend our time letting others tell us about other people, and we talk at and about versus to (each other)."

The foundation already has three events scheduled, Kumar said. The first, an all-afternoon rally and march in Annville in support of Bugg Jr., is planned for Tuesday. It will begin with opening remarks at 11:30 a.m. at Lebanon Valley College's Miller Chapel, followed by a march to the Annville square at Route 422 and Route 934, where the rally will continue through 6 p.m.

A Feb. 16 livestream of a Tampa-based panel discussion called "Under Our Skin: A Forum on Race and Faith" will take place at Bugg's church, Life Center Ministries, in Harrisburg. It will also be livestreamed on Dare2Care's Facebook page. The event will feature celebrities including ESPN's Sage Steele, Baltimore Ravens tight end Benjamin Watson and football coach Tony Dungy.

They are also working on an educational event with Lebanon Councilman Cornell Wilson, with details to be announced at a later time. Other long-term initiatives may include educational programs for various ages from preschool to college and adult, Kumar said.

The Dare2Care to Heal Racism Foundation is also seeking donations, which can be made via an online payment system described on their Facebook page or by mailing Suite 1, 51 N. Village Circle, Palmyra, PA, 17078, she said.

This story is part of a partnership between WITF and the Lebanon Daily News.

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