NEWS 8 EXCLUSIVE
DALLAS Newly-signed Dallas Cowboys player Henry Melton is suing the owner of a Grapevine bar and several others over a physical confrontation that resulted in Melton's arrest during the Christmas holidays last year.
Melton, a defensive tackle who stands about 6'-3' and weighs about 300 pounds, contends in his countersuit that he was the victim of the attack; that a racial epithet was used; and that a representative of the bar's owner tried to extort money from him. The legal action was filed Tuesday.
'This case is nothing short of a shakedown and desire for a golden meal ticket,' Melton's lawsuit contends.
The player's lawsuit seeks damages that include past and future lost wages and past and future loss of earning capacity. He names the bar's owner, Donald Payne; Payne's brother, Robert; the bartender, Christopher Kummer; a bouncer and an off-duty police officer hired to help with security that night as defendants.
'The suit filed by Melton is frivolous and a work of fiction,' said Darren Wolf, an attorney representing Payne. 'It's an attempt to distract from what happened and an attempt for him to avoid responsibility for his actions. The Grapevine police came out and investigated this matter, and they didn't have a dog in the fight, and they arrested Henry Melton.'
Melton, 27, currently faces a charge of Class A misdemeanor assault, punishable by up to a year in jail, in connection with the brawl. His next court date is April 24. At the time of the incident, Melton was a defensive tackle for the Chicago Bears.
Last week, Melton and the Dallas Cowboys agreed to one-year contract. Melton could make as much as $5 million this year under the terms of the deal.
In late January, Payne filed suit against Melton, alleging pain and mental anguish. He sought damages of more than a $1 million. Earlier this month, News 8 broke the story about Payne's lawsuit and obtained exclusive surveillance video of the melee. The video shows the bartender telling a customer to leave and pointing to the door several times. It clearly shows at least one punch being thrown. It's unclear who threw it.
The dueling lawsuits paint a dramatically different picture of the events that occurred before and during the early morning confrontation at the Chill Sports Bar and Grill on South Main Street in Grapevine on December 22, 2013.
Melton's lawsuit says he traveled from Chicago to his hometown to spend time with family during the holidays while recovering from knee surgery. The one-time Grapevine High School standout says he came into the restaurant with friends.
He contends the confrontation began when Kummer, the bartender, indicated that he was not tipping enough. Melton's lawsuit says that he told Kummer that he would provide an 'additional tip' at the end of the night. He describes Kummer as becoming agitated, yelling at him, waving his arms and demanding he leave.
In Donald Payne's lawsuit, he contends that Melton was asked to leave after he repeatedly told the bartenders serving him 'that he was a millionaire and the bartenders were nothing but poor white trash.' Donald Payne says he approached Melton and told that him it was time to go and that Melton responded by punching him.
The lawsuit says that he, Kummer, a doorman and the off duty police officer working security physically removed 'the violent and aggressive' Melton from the premises.
Donald Payne, the owner and manager, said Melton lifted him off the ground and bit him in the side, drawing blood.
'Melton's vicious and unprovoked attack on Payne caused Payne serious bodily injury that required medical attention and treatment,' the lawsuit states.
Melton's lawsuit describes Donald Payne, Kummer and the others as the aggressors.
In Melton's account, Payne and two other men grabbed him from behind and spun him around. He claims Donald Payne put him in a headlock while the others restrained him. The lawsuit says Kummer jumped over the bar, onto his back and began beating him.
'Kummer, a self-labeled 'bar brawler' who has been in 'countless bar brawls,' attacked Melton while his back was turned and threw punches that landed on Melton's back and side,' Melton's lawsuit states.
The lawsuit contends that because of Melton's recent knee surgery, he didn't have the stability to fight off the 'attackers who were draped on his back, side and head,' it states.
Melton's suit says the men dragged him outside and continued to kick, hit and choke him.
'As Melton was being struck, he said, 'I can't breathe. I can't breathe,''' the lawsuit states. 'One of the attackers viciously commented, 'well, you're talking [racial epithet].'
Melton contends that the surveillance video backs up his account that he did not hit any of the men. He claims that he has been defamed and that it has significantly 'harmed' his 'earning capacity, wages and reputation.' He also accuses the bar of negligence in its hiring and training practices
The lawsuit names Donald Payne's brother, Robert, who was not present during the physical confrontation, over comments that he posted on a story about Melton on ESPN.com.
'He took a right hook to the face and a vicious bite,' Robert Payne wrote.
Another commenter responded: 'Don't worry, you and your brother will abuse the flawed legal system and get a fat settlement check. Didn't mean to harsh your mellow.'
'What is the legal system for?' Robert Payne responded.
The lawsuit cites that comment as evidence of a plot to 'defame Melton and hope, plead and beg for a big payday.'
In the lawsuit, Melton accuses a representative of Donald Payne's of contacting his agent, Jordan Woy, and telling him that he could make the matter 'go away' if Melton paid $150,000.
The lawsuit says that Donald Payne filed his lawsuit after Melton refused.