Emory Ellis, a homeless black man from Boston, Massachusetts, was just trying to buy breakfast, and ended up in jail for a quarter of a year.
He’s now suing Burger King; Two Guys Foods Inc., the franchisee; and Eric Butra, the cashier, for almost $1 million, for damages for civil rights violations, defamation, negligence, and for illegally taking his money, according to Law360.
Ellis was arrested in November 2015, after he used a $10 bill to pay for his breakfast at Burger King. He was wrongfully accused of using counterfeit cash and subsequently arrested, NBC News reports, and charged with forgery of a bank note.
Things only got worse from there. Ellis’ arrest triggered a probation violation, and he was held without bail until his final probation violation hearing, according to NBC. He was released in February 2016, after the U.S. Secret Service concluded that the bill Ellis had used was, in fact, real, leading prosecutors to drop the forgery charge. Ellis was never given his money back.
Ellis filed a lawsuit in Suffolk Superior Court last week against Burger King and the store franchisee, the Washington Post reports, alleging that he was discriminated against for being black and homeless. The suit claims that the cashier, who is also named in the suit and who refused to return Ellis’ money, “was plainly discriminating against Mr. Ellis based on Mr. Ellis’s appearance.”
“I know that had I walked into the Burger King with the exact same $10 bill, nobody would have scrutinized it,” Ellis’ attorney, Justin Drechsler, told The Post. Drechsler is white and the same age as Ellis. “I never would have been accused of anything. I certainly wouldn’t have had the police called on me, no matter what the series of events.”
Ellis is seeking $950,000.
Burger King has not commented specifically on the matter, with a spokesperson for the company telling The Post that the company doesn’t tolerate discrimination “of any kind” but could not comment on ongoing legal matters. The company also told the Associated Press that franchisees are responsible for training employees and handling legal issues.
Two Guys Foods, Inc. — the franchisee — and the cashier named in the suit have yet to comment. Law360 notes that an insurance company for Two Guys months ago offered $10,000, according to Drechsler, who says that offer is no longer on the table.
[Photo: Getty Images]