Delay Refused in Lawsuit Over Immigrant's Death
(CN) - Customs and Border Protection officers implicated in the death of a deported immigrant cannot delay discovery in an excessive force action, a federal judge ruled.
The government reportedly took Anastacio Hernandez-Rojas into custody after finding him trying to illegally cross into San Diego from Mexico. San Diego's public broadcasting service, KPBS, reported that Hernandez-Rojas had lived and raised a family in San Diego for almost three decades, but had been recently deported.
After CBP officers detained Hernandez-Rojas, the Mexican national allegedly complained about his treatment and requested to see a doctor and an immigration judge.
The officers and supervisors instead took Hernandez-Rojas into the desert and abused him, relatives claimed in a federal complaint.
They say Hernandez-Rojas was hog-tied, kicked, punched, beaten with batons and shot him several times with a Taser.
Hernandez-Rojas suffered a fatal heart attack after begging the officers to stop, his family claims. A group of eyewitnesses allegedly took photographs and videos of the beating, but officers confiscated and destroyed and destroyed, according to the suit.
Discovery in the case is currently slated for completion on Jan. 2, 2013.
But the defendants, a dozen as-yet unnamed CPB officers and supervisors, moved to stay their production. They said that the Justice Department has convened a federal grand jury to investigate potential criminal charges against them, and that discovery in the civil action would force them to choose between their Fifth Amendment rights and defending the action. They also said media attention to the case caused prejudice.
U.S. District Judge James Lorenz in San Diego rejected the arguments as speculative and denied the motion to stay.
"Given the amount of time that has transpired since the filing of the initial complaint and the fact that none of the defendants have been indicted, the court finds that plaintiffs would face substantial prejudice in having this case stayed," the Wednesday states.
"Given the uncertainty as to whether any of the defendants will be indicted, it is not in the court's interest to grant defendants' motion for stay," Lorenz added. "As discussed previously, the secrecy of grand jury proceedings makes it impossible for the court to determine when, if ever, any of the defendants will face indictment. Thus, a stay of these proceedings would keep this matter on the court's caseload without moving toward a resolution and in the absence of any immediate threat to defendants."