Man injured in dispute over $4 hot dog

Hudson says officers threw him to the ground during New Year’s Eve incident on Cedar Springs

DAVID TAFFET  |  taffet@dallasvoice.com

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LASTING IMPRESSION | Will Hudson suffered abrasions and bruises to his face when an unknown officer threw him to the ground in Oak Lawn on New Year’s Eve. (Photo courtesy Will Hudson)

Will Hudson never expected the simple purchase of a hot dog from a pushcart vendor on Cedar Springs to result in facial injuries and a night in jail.

On New Years Eve, Hudson and two friends did what they thought was the responsible thing to do. They rented a room at the nearby Holiday Inn on Harry Hines Boulevard and walked to the bars. After partying on the strip, they planned to take a quick cab ride back to their hotel.

The 23-year-old Drury College senior was in town visiting his parents during the winter break.

At about 10 p.m., before going into any of the bars, Hudson and his friend, Robert Fuggity of Houston, ordered a hotdog from Smoky Joe’s, a pushcart vendor that often sets up in front of S4 on Cedar Springs Road. The vendor prepared a hotdog and Hudson handed him a credit card.

Hudson said that the vendor immediately became agitated and said that he did not accept credit cards. So Fuggity said he would go to the ATM to get cash. The closest one is directly across the street outside the Round-Up Saloon.

Instead, Hudson said, the vendor called over nearby police. Hudson, who is 5-foot, 3-inches and weighs 130 pounds, said he was thrown to the ground, resulting in bruising to his face, including his cheek, ear and forehead. He and Fuggity were taken into custody for public drunkenness. They were transported to the City Detention Center downtown, a facility better known as “detox.”

Police may take someone into custody for public drunkenness if that person is suspected of being a danger to himself or others and can then hold that individual for six to 12 hours.

Hudson said that police did not do a sobriety test or take blood, nor did they offer to do either.

Hudson said he and his friend were held for 10 hours and released.

Both Hudson and Fuggity were given citations to appear in magistrate court. If they paid the $394 fine, the public drunkenness charge would remain on their record.

Dallas police LGBT liaison Officer Laura Martin said it was unlikely, but not impossible, that Dallas police would have been on foot on Cedar Springs at that hour. She suggested that instead, security guards employed by the bars answered the street vendor’s call and, after pushing Hudson to the ground, called police. Patrol cars were in the area all evening, Martin said.

According to the city of Dallas office for restaurant inspections, Smoky Joes does have a permit and permission to sell hot dogs on Cedar Springs.

Cedar Springs Merchants Association President Scott Whittall, who owns Buli, said that Smoky Joe’s is not a member of the retail group.

Rick Espaillat at Caven Enterprises, which operates S4 and several other bars in the area, said his company is not affiliated with the hot dog vendor, who operates on city-owned sidewalks, not on Caven property.

No contact information was available for Smoky Joe’s to get a comment for this story.

Adam Seidel, a Dallas attorney who represents Chad Gibson, the man injured in the 2009 Rainbow Lounge Raid in Fort Worth, said, “The events described by Mr. Hudson would make this level of force totally unjustifiable and excessive.”

He said that he looked forward to comparing Hudson’s version with that of the officers.

“How much of a danger am I for a $4 hot dog?” Hudson asked. He wondered why that level of force was used, especially since his friend had offered to run across the street and get the cash.

“Sometimes these cases are dismissed, but usually only after the officer fails to appear to testify at trial,” Seidel said. “Either way, public intoxication is a criminal offense, which, if not handled correctly, can result in a lifetime conviction on a person’s record.”

Hudson tried to get a copy of his arrest record. On Wednesday, Jan. 5, he went to Dallas police headquarters in The Cedars, but no records could be provided. Martin said there isn’t normally written documentation for a simple public intoxication arrest.

On Thursday, Jan. 6, Hudson went to court to answer the citation. He was given a sentence of time served and had to pay no court costs.

The arrest remains on his record, however. His request for deferred adjudication was denied.

Because of the facial abrasions, Martin said her lieutenant was trying to contact Hudson. Assistant Chief Vincent Golbeck referred the case to Internal Affairs. They’re interested in speaking to anyone else who witnessed the incident.

Hudson is considering pursuing legal action as a result of his injuries.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 7, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas