November 23, 2006
Jury Verdict Against Border Vigilante
Jury Orders AZ Border Vigilante to pay nearly $100,000 in damages to families
After years of feeling like they were banging their heads against a brick wall trying to get Cochise County and Arizona state officials to file criminal charges against Roger Barnett, the godfather of border vigilantism, two Mexican-American families from Douglas, Arizona are finally celebrating.
After three hours of deliberations in the Superior Court in Bisbee, Arizona, the jury in the civil trial found Roger Barnett guilty of intentionally inflicting emotional distress, negligence, unlawful imprisonment and assault and ordered that Barnett pay the group close to $100,000 in damages.
The charges stem from an October 30, 2004 incident when Roger Barnett, his wife and brother, Donald Barnett stopped Arturo, Ronald, Vanese and Angelique Morales and the girls' friend, Emma English, while the group was on a hunting trip. Upon finding the group on land he leases for grazing livestock from the Arizona State Land Department, Barnett yelled racist obscenities and pointed his chambered, AR-15 assault rifle at the three young girls (ages 11 and 9) and the two men and threatened to kill them.
The trial began on November 14th and included emotional and intense testimony from the children, their parents, psychologists, land surveyors, sheriffs' deputy, Arizona Game and Fish employee, and other bow hunters who had also been physically assaulted and barraged with racist insults by Barnett. The families were represented by Jesus Romo Vejar, a long-time civil rights and immigrant rights attorney.
"The real impact of this terrific decision has not hit me yet," commented Ronald Morales. "The girls, Vanese and Angelique, feel like it was all worth it. Finally, they can see that we do have a justice system that works and that no one, not even Roger Barnett, is above the law."
The Morales and English families, with the support of the Border Action Network, a human rights community organization based in southern Arizona, uncovered a vicious cycle of public officials who demonstrated no political will or interest in supporting Arizona border communities' calls for prosecuting Barnett and others for assaulting not only undocumented immigrants, but U.S. citizens.
"This is an historic moment," reflects Jennifer Allen, Director of the Border Action Network. "This victory is just the beginning. We can guarantee that every official who tried to sweep this case and issue under the rug and who still has the capacity of bringing criminal charges will hear from us."
The human rights group presented an extensive petition to the Organization of American States' Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in April 2005 charging the U.S. government with human rights violations for failing to prosecute border vigilante groups and activities. That petition is supported by the University of Arizona's Human Rights Workshop and is still pending. Also on the horizon is civil suit filed by MALDEF against the Barnetts that has not yet gone to trial.
"The door has been opened by this very important decision condemning the violence and trauma caused by border vigilantism," continues Allen. "We've already seen the courage the Morales and English girls as well as the jury had for standing up for what is right and fair. Now we are looking for the courage of our public officials to uphold human dignity and end vigilante impunity."
For more information, contact:
Jennifer Allen, Executive Director
Border Action Network
P.O. Box 384
Tucson, AZ 85702
P.S. For the N.Y. Times story on the verdict and Barnett, click here.
November 23, 2006 | Permalink
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If only our government were so vigilent in persuing the crime of illegal immigration and the deportation of those not entitled to cross our borders. And we can't forget the Mexcian government's uniformed thugs, drug dealers and human traffickers incursions that occur on a daily base and are rarely prosecuted by our Justice Department. It will be truly a historic moment when our borders are secured against illicit crossers.
Posted by: George | Nov 24, 2006 8:35:23 AM