Cops believe Reggie Allen mowed down an unarmed black man outside an east-side club more than a year ago. So why isn't he behind bars?

Rising to speak before Mayor Parks and those assembled, Meehan tried to lay out his case against Allen. But Parks cut him off, requesting that both he and the media leave.

"There were individuals [present] who I thought might have clammed up or might have acted out because the media was there," Parks says later in an interview. "We [then] had such a healthy discussion, I knew the businesses were ready to handle their responsibilities." Parks lifted the moratorium that same day.

Meehan, the Rices and their friends kept clamoring for prosecution. They began regular protests, sometimes in freezing temperatures, in front of City Nights. When the Allens put up "No Trespassing" signs, they moved to city hall.

Tim Lane
Tim Lane

Some held aloft signs denouncing "Nazi skinheads" — a reference to Aubrey Rice's assertion that a City Nights employee had a swastika tattooed on his neck. (Riverfront Times could not verify that claim.) Other signs at the protest demanded that Mayor Parks "Shut Down City Nights."

In late December, those picketers effectively got their wish.

Firefighters responded to a blaze at the club just after midnight on December 23, 2009. They wrestled it into submission within two hours, but not before the entire building was reduced to ashes. The Illinois State Fire Marshal investigated the scene but refuses to release its findings to the RFT.

On a Facebook page set up to memorialize Anthony Rice, his mother, Annette Nash-Smith, weighed in. "I'm not pleased that this happened," she wrote. "[But] I can't say this was a loss to the city."

People in the Allen camp have suggested that someone angry about Anthony Rice's death started the fire. Meehan denies it. On the contrary, he suggests that the Allens could have burned the place down for the insurance money.

But Mayor Parks has a much higher opinion of Reggie Allen's family — particularly his late father, Woodrow, who died last weekend after a battle with lung cancer.

"Woody has been extremely benevolent to the city of East St. Louis," Parks observes.

In an interview a few weeks before Woodrow Allen's death, Parks says Reggie Allen's father donated roughly $3,000 to help citizens take buses to the state capital, in a lobbying effort to keep the area hospital open. Allen pitched in to purchase a new car as a gift for 2008 Olympic gold medalist, Dawn Harper, a native of the city. And during the holiday seasons of 2007 and 2008, Allen gave 50 Schnucks gift cards, each worth $50, to needy area residents.

The Allens have also been good to Parks personally. State records show that Gail and Woody made political contributions to Parks totaling nearly $1,000 in 2007 and 2008 combined. But the politician denies it bought any influence.

In fact, Parks adds, he summoned the Allens to his office, asking them to address various issues even before the Anthony Rice incident. For example, a St. Louis man was shot and killed in the City Nights parking lot in 2008. The mayor immediately met with Woodrow Allen, demanding he provide proper security.

East St. Louis city code is clear: No strip clubs allowed. But it does permit "sexually oriented" businesses. Dancers at such places must keep their nipples, buttocks and genitals covered.

Yet such establishments cannot also sell liquor. So how did City Nights offer both "hot girls" and "cold beer," as its sign suggested?

City Nights was "basically a bikini bar," says Parks, where girls were properly covered and "sex wasn't the main thing on the menu."

The mayor adds that he had discussions "many, many, many times" with the Allens making sure they honored the city code. He also personally checked in on the club to make sure it was following the rules.

Responding to accusations that City Nights disallowed blacks, Parks avers that the bar did employ black females and had black patrons "from time to time."

"If Woody Allen is a racist, he fooled me pretty well," he says.

In addition to his mayoral duties, Parks also currently serves as the city liquor commissioner. He doesn't know what the Allens have in store for the new structure they've erected at the former City Nights location. (The building is made partly of empty freight containers.)

But he says the city has denied the Allens a new liquor license pending the outcome of the Rice case.

Parks himself recently viewed the footage that the bar's four surveillance cameras captured on the night Anthony Rice died. The mayor declines to say whether the video implicates Reggie Allen.

But he offers this: "If it's proven to be intentional and unjustified, [the Allens] will not have a liquor license again in that location, and I'd be very hard pressed to allow them to have a liquor license anywhere else in the city of East St. Louis."

He says his heart goes out to the Rice family. "I've given them everything I can give them. The city has given them everything the city can give. The only thing we're waiting for at this point is for officials beyond East St. Louis to make a decision."

When East St. Louis police detective Marion Riddle arrived at the crime scene on October 4, 2009 — just minutes after Anthony Rice was hit — he wasn't expecting a murder case.

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