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Mysterious End of the Naked United Pilot Case

The view of Andrew Collins inside the room where he was staying, via a DPD body cam.
The view of Andrew Collins inside the room where he was staying, via a DPD body cam.
Denver Police Department
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On January 14, United States District Court Judge William Martinez approved a motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by United Airlines pilot Andrew Collins, who was cuffed by cops in September 2018 for allegedly dancing naked near the window of his hotel room at the DIA Westin, in full sight of passengers watching slack-jawed from the Denver International Airport terminal ten floors below.

Collins, who was actually involved in an animated phone call prior to taking a shower and had no idea he was on full display to anyone, had already received a $300,000 settlement from the City of Denver over the circumstances of his arrest. But he also filed a complaint against the Westin, arguing that hotel staff conspired with the Denver Police Department to violate his rights, and should have warned him that his room was a lot less private than he thought; this was the suit that Martinez tossed.

Still, Martinez's ruling doesn't appear to be the final word in this bizarre story. Attorney Craig Silverman, who represents Collins, spoke at length about the case in previous Westword interviews. This time around, he provided a brief statement confirming that "the ruling was somewhat disappointing" and implying that only unspecified actions by the parties involved finally caused both to walk away.

"We had rights to re-file and/or appeal," Silverman stressed. "Instead, we’ve arrived at an amicable resolution."

A spokesperson for Marriott, the corporation that owns the Westin, was even less loquacious, noting, "We are not commenting."

Collins would never have started his trek through the legal system if not for thunderstorms on the evening of September 19, 2018, which forced the experienced pilot — he'd been with United for 25 years at that point — to divert his flight to Colorado Springs. He was assigned to a layover at the DIA Westin in advance of a jaunt to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, slated for the next afternoon.

When he was booked into room 1017 at the Westin, it was dark; the next morning, he took a quick look around and concluded that the window facing north toward DIA's terminal was tinted. So Collins opened the curtains to let in the sun — and on his way to the shower, he made a call, during which he paced around the room using a hands-free, Bluetooth-enabled device. He was still making calls when, around 11 a.m., there was a hammering on the door to the room: Denver Police Officer Karl Coleman announced that he and other law enforcement agents with him, including DPD Sergeant Kim Pfannkuch, would be entering with or without Collins's permission.

"These officers went into the hotel room without a warrant and without probable cause, and immediately took physical control of Andy," Silverman explained in an earlier interview. "They handcuffed him, they accused him of all sorts of things that he didn't do, and he was in jail for days before he was able to be released."

Collins never got to take his shower.

The story made global headlines after it was leaked to the press that November, effectively blowing up Collins's bid for presidency of the Air Line Pilots Association, a powerful national union, even though the indecent-exposure charge against him was dismissed.

Why sue the hotel owner? "Instead of calling up to the room to alert the occupant that he was being seen, the Denver police decided to bust into his room — and they did so with the assistance of staff at the DIA Westin," Silverman told us. "They aided the government in violating his constitutional rights."

But Martinez disagreed, writing this in his order: "The Court finds that Plaintiff has not plausibly alleged any specific facts that support his position that Defendant was aware, or should have been aware, that aspects of its windows could potentially lead an unsuspecting guest to erroneously conclude that the windows were opaque and expose himself." Collins, he added, had "failed to allege the existence of a conspiracy" between hotel staffers and the DPD.

Did the Westin settle with Collins to make the case go away once and for all? Silverman offers this single sentence: "Andy’s pleased with the justice he’s received in our criminal and civil justice systems."

Click to read the motion-to-dismiss order in the case of Andrew Collins v. Westin DIA Operator, LLC.

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