DENVER (AP) — Actor and comedian Marlon Wayans says he is being unfairly prosecuted for disturbing the peace over a dispute with an airline employee who he alleges targeted him because of his race.
Attorneys for Wayans, who is Black, made the allegations in a court filing Thursday that asked for dismissal of the case stemming from a luggage dispute at Denver’s airport.
Wayans was cited for disturbing the peace, a municipal violation, in June, police said. According to the court filing, a United Airlines gate agent told him he could not get on a flight to Kansas City with three bags. The gate agent apparently tried to physically block Wayans from getting on the flight after he consolidated his luggage into two bags to conform with airline policy, the filing said. He boarded anyway and was later asked to get off the plane before it departed.
While Wayans worked to rearrange his luggage, the gate agent kept allowing white passengers with three bags to board the flight, according to the court filing, which included still photos of surveillance video of white passengers with yellow arrows pointing to each of their bags. About 140 people boarded the flight, it said, many with three bags and oversized bags which violated the airline’s policy.
Wayans’ lawyers say the gate agent racially discriminated against him and that Denver prosecutors, by continuing to pursue charges against him, are perpetuating that discrimination and denying his right to equal protection under the law.
“The City of Denver’s position is an affront to constitutional and social equity principles,” Wayans’ lawyers said.
City Attorney Kerry Tipper said her office does not comment on pending cases. United did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
In a statement issued by United in June to questions about what happened to Wayans, the airline said an unnamed customer “pushed past” an employee at the jet bridge and attempted to board the plane.
According to statements recorded on police body camera and cited in the filing, the gate agent told officers that Wayans “shoved” “pushed” or “elbowed” him as the comedian boarded the plane, which Wayans’ lawyers say is a lie. They say Wayans may have brushed shoulders with the agent as he boarded.
The police officers who investigated were doubtful that any crime had been committed, according to the filing, but the gate agent asked that charges be pursued.