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RACE DISCRIMINIATION SUIT AGAINST DENNY'S DISMISSED

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) A federal judge has dismissed a race discrimination lawsuit by nine Chinese and African-Americans who said they were thrown out of a Dennys restaurant and beaten by white customers while security guards watched.

U.S. District Judge Frederick Scullin said the former students failed to show they were denied seating or security services in dismissing the 1997 case.

Last November, the U.S. Justice Department rejected the groups request to bring federal charges against the restaurant and those involved, saying there was no evidence to support their allegations.

We still feel that there are facts in dispute here and that this case should go to the jury, said Ken Kimerling, a spokesman for the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, which represented the students.

We are probably going to appeal. We have to talk it over with everyone, but thats our inclination, he said Monday.

Scullin filed his decision Thursday and lawyers received notice Monday.

We were confident that when all the facts were presented, Dennys would be vindicated, said James B. Anderson, Dennys president and chief executive officer.

Dennys parent company, Advantica Restaurant Group Inc. in Spartanburg, S.C., has nearly 1,800 company and franchise restaurants worldwide.

We have worked very hard to create an inclusive organization that embraces diversity in every aspect of our business, Anderson said.

The former students said they were denied service at a suburban Syracuse Dennys on April 11, 1997, while other customers were seated ahead of them, then were assaulted in the parking lot by a group of white patrons as two security guards watched.

The guards were off-duty deputies, so the lawsuit also named Onondaga County as a defendant, contending the county did not properly train the deputies.

Local prosecutors investigated, but District Attorney William Fitzpatrick accused the students of being drunk, disorderly and orchestrating their claim, knowing of the restaurant chains legal history regarding discrimination.

In 1994, Dennys settled a $46 million class-action lawsuits by black Secret Service agents and California students who claimed discrimination in separate incidents. Dennys now operates under the watch of Justice Department civil rights monitor, but it has faced other incidents in Maryland, Florida and West Virginia.

Restaurant employees and witnesses said the students became rude and rowdy when they could not immediately be seated together in the restaurant filled with an early morning breakfast crowd heading home from bars. They were asked to leave and then started a fight in the parking lot, according to the prosecutors report.

The students, most attending Syracuse University, left before police arrived. They did not seek medical treatment or report the fight until after they gathered at a students apartment, the report said.

Advantica said it was not responsible because the restaurants were franchised to an independent company, NDI Foods Inc. of Syracuse. NDI also denied any discrimination.

That company has since entered bankruptcy proceedings and turned its seven upstate New York Dennys franchises back to Advantica.

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