Friday, August 04, 2006

Club: Tape negates claims on Hilton Ruiz death

Club: Tape negates claims on Ruiz death

By JANET McCONNAUGHEY, Associated Press WriterFri Aug 4, 11:06 AM ET

Bouncers at a Bourbon Street dance club threw the late jazz pianist and composer Hilton Ruiz face-first into heavy wooden doors and then onto the floor after he was attacked by a club patron, his daughter claims in court papers filed Thursday.

But a representative for Club Utopia said its tapes show Ruiz signing a tab for more than $200, leaving by himself and walking without incident along an alley.

Tapes from a club next door show Ruiz tripping minutes later and hitting his face on the curb, Jacques Chrysocoos said.

Ruiz, of Teaneck, N.J., was hospitalized after being injured May 19. He died June 6, never regaining consciousness. He had come to New Orleans to make a video to go with a Hurricane Katrina benefit recording.

Attorney Scott M. Galante filed the new allegations against the club for Aida Ruiz, as an amended version of a lawsuit brought in June against Utopia and others. The allegations are based on statements by a witness, Galante said.

In the suit, Aida Ruiz claims that the club's bouncers failed either to protect her 54-year-old father or to help him after a patron attacked and beat him.

Chrysocoos said the review of that morning's tapes shows that the only disagreement that came close to a fight was between two other patrons, who were asked to leave. He said the club is sending its tapes to police.

Police have repeatedly said they investigated Ruiz's injuries as an attack, but found only evidence of an accidental fall.

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