Assault ruling upheld against Arizona border rancher
Brady McCombs, Arizona Daily Star |
Posted: Wednesday, October 5, 2011 10:05 am |
The U.S. Supreme Court upheld a 2009 ruling against Cochise County
rancher Roger Barnett, forcing him to pay about $87,000 in damages
related to his assault of illegal immigrants on his ranch in 2004.
The decision comes on the heels of the same ruling by the 9th U.S.
Circuit Court of Appeals in February.
The court disagreed with the arguments made in the appeal, which
included a claim that deceased U.S. District Judge John Roll made
errors while presiding over the February 2009 trial. Roll was one of
six people killed in the Jan. 8 mass shooting in Tucson.
In that February 2009 trial, a federal jury issued a split verdict in
a case against Barnett stemming from the 2004 incident. The jury
found that he didn't violate the group's civil rights and that he
wasn't liable on claims of battery and false imprisonment.
But the jury found him liable on four claims of assault and four
claims of infliction of emotional distress and ordered Barnett to pay
$77,804 in damages. The $87,000 he must pay reflects that original
amount plus interest.
The 2004 incident occurred close to a wash near Douglas when Barnett
approached a group of 16 illegal immigrants while he was carrying a
gun and accompanied by a large dog. Attorneys for the plaintiffs —
five women and 11 men who had crossed into the U.S. illegally — say
that Barnett held the group captive at gunpoint, threatening that his
dog would attack and that he would shoot anyone who tried to escape.
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund applauded the
ruling against the "vigilante" rancher in a news release.
"Roger Barnett can hide no more behind his frivolous appeal," said
Marisa Bono of the organization. "It is time for Barnett to pay the
victims for his deplorable actions."
Barnett's legal team say he is no vigilante and was only acting in
self-defense on that 2004 day. They say Barnett pulled his gun
because he was alone and didn't know whether the group were armed
drug smugglers. Once he realized they weren't, he dropped his gun and
called the Border Patrol.
This is the second case in which a ruling has been upheld against
Barnett. In February 2008, the Arizona Court of Appeals refused to
throw out a jury verdict of guilty from November 2006 — and a nearly
$100,000 monetary award — against Barnett in another civil case in
which a jury concluded he falsely imprisoned members of a Douglas
In that case, Barnett held a family of Hispanic U.S. citizens at
gunpoint, screaming racial slurs at them, and threatened to kill them
all, including two girls aged 9 and 11, according to MALDEF.
Barnett is credited with helping to start the Minuteman movement in
Arizona in the late 1990s when he began patrolling ranch lands near
Douglas, looking to stop illegal immigrants. Barnett has said he's
detained thousands of border crossers on property he owns or leases
near Douglas in the last decade, and then turning them over to Border
Contact reporter Brady McCombs at 573-4213 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Read more: http://azstarnet.com/news/local/border/article_9fb9f854-