Common Sense Wins The Day!
John A. Quayle
blueoval57 at VERIZON.NET
Wed Feb 18 22:28:58 MST 2009
[There were two outrageous decisions on punitive damages, but on the whole,
this was a real victory! - JAQ]
Jury: Rancher didn't violate illegal immigrants' rights
By ARTHUR H. ROTSTEIN
The Associated Press
February 18, 2009
TUCSON, Ariz. - A federal jury found Tuesday that a southern Arizona
rancher didn't violate the civil rights of a group of illegal immigrants
who said he detained them at gunpoint in 2004.
The eight-member civil jury also found Roger Barnett wasn't liable on
claims of battery and false imprisonment.
But the jury did find him liable on four claims of assault and four claims
of infliction of emotional distress and ordered Barnett to pay
$77,804 in damages - $60,000 of which were punitive.
Barnett declined to comment afterward, but one of his attorneys, David
Hardy, said the plaintiffs lost on the bulk of their claims and that
Barnett has a good basis for appeal on the two counts on which he lost.
"They won a fraction of the damages they were seeking," Hardy said.
All six plaintiffs are citizens of Mexico, five of whom are living in the
United States with visa applications pending, and the sixth resides
in Mexico but was allowed into the U.S. for the trial, said Nina Perales,
an attorney with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
She declined to say where in the U.S. they're residing.
Perales called the outcome "a resounding victory that sends a message that
vigilante violence against immigrants will not be tolerated."
David Urias, attorney for the plaintiffs, said, "Obviously we are
disappointed with some aspects of the verdict. But I think that overall
this was a victory for the plaintiffs."
For years, Arizona has been the busiest point along the Mexican border for
illegal immigrants entering the United States.
For more than a decade, Barnett has been a controversial figure in southern
Arizona. He's known for aggressively patrolling his ranch property and
along highways and roads in the area, often with his wife and brothers, on
the lookout for illegal immigrants.
The plaintiffs alleged that Barnett threatened them with his dog and told
them he would shoot anyone who tried to escape.
Barnett's lawyers argued that his land was inundated with illegal
immigrants who left trash on his property, damaged his water supply and
harmed his cattle.
Barnett's wife and a brother were dismissed as defendants; in addition, 10
more people initially named as plaintiffs were dropped from the
Barnett has been known to wear a holstered 9-mm pistol on his hip and upon
coming across groups of migrants, to flash a blue and gold badge
resembling that of the highway patrol, with the wording "Barnett Ranch
Patrol. Cochise County. State of Arizona."
The Barnetts detain and turn over those whom they encounter to the U.S.
Border Patrol. In 2006, Barnett estimated that he had detained more than
10,000 illegal immigrants in 10 years.
His actions have resulted in formal complaints from the Mexican government
against what it considers vigilante actions, and in several other lawsuits,
including one stemming from an October 2004 incident.
In that case, a jury awarded a family of Mexican-Americans on a hunting
trip $100,000 in damages, later upheld by the Arizona Supreme Court.
Barnett's 22,000-acre ranch, about five miles north of the Mexican border,
includes private and federal lease holdings in addition to
nearly 14,000 acres of state-leased land.
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