Madison announced today that it has settled a lawsuit brought by five men who openly carried handguns in a Culver's restaurant last September for a total of $10,000.
The men -- members of Wisconsin Carry -- met at the restaurant on September 18, 2010 for an informal social gathering. A 62-year-old woman sitting in her car noticed their weapons and called police. She later told officers: "I didn't know what the law was, and I thought I should at least call so the police can come and check it out 'cause I didn't want to be that one person that saw guns and didn't call, and then have something terrible happen."
Eight Madison Police officers arrived and asked all five for identification. Two refused and were tentatively charged with obstructing justice. Two days later, the city dropped those charges and instead charged all five with disorderly conduct. In April, those charges were dismissed.
But in the meantime, Wisconsin Carry filed a lawsuit against the city for its actions.
In a letter (PDF) to Madison Common Council members, city attorney Michael May says the city has settled. "Based on the cost of defense and the possible costs of an adverse verdict, the city reached agreement to settle the entire case (all five plaintiffs) for a total of $10,000," May wrote.
Catherine M. Rottier, the private attorney who represented the city in the case, said "The settlement is at a moderately modest level. It's an attempt to buy peace and move on. The other option is you put lots of money and time into the case."
The city settled the case without admitting wrong-doing. A condition of the settlement was it had to be accepted by all five plaintiffs against all of the defendants, which included the city and Police Chief Noble Wray.
"I think I had good arguments to make, but I don't want to be a Pollyanna either," Rottier said. "Risk is something you have to factor in."
The political landscape has changed drastically since the incident. At the time, it was legal to openly carry handguns. But this year, the Republican-controlled state Legislature made it legal to also carry concealed weapons.