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Saturday, May 18, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Arpaio’s Men Broke Her Elbow, Woman Says

PHOENIX (CN) - Sheriff Joe Arpaio officers broke a woman's elbow while forcibly taking her fingerprints in an immigration office, the woman claims in Federal Court. Maria del Carmen Garcia Martinez says deputies assaulted because she refused to sign documents she could not read; the documents were in English and she reads only Spanish.

Garcia says she was scheduled to appear in court on March 12, 2009, after being accused of illegally posting yard sale signs without proper documents. On March 11, she was taken from the Estrella Jail to the Lower Buckeye Jail, where she was to be turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

When Maricopa County Sheriff's deputies questioned her in the ICE office, she says, she refused to answer without her attorney. Garcia says when she refused to sign ICE documents, the deputies told her "that if she did not give her fingerprint they would force her to do so."

She says the deputies took her into the "fingerprint room" where they forced her to the floor, "began stomping on her legs and twisted and pulled her left arm completely behind her back, as they attempted to have her place her right index fingerprint on the documents."

Garcia "kept pleading with them and telling them that they were hurting her. She was screaming, crying and in terrible pain, but the defendant officers would not stop," according to the complaint.

After the assault, Garcia was taken to a holding room for 3 hours. When deputies returned they told her again that they would force her to give her fingerprint. This time she complied, for fear of another assault, she says.

Garcia says was arrested on March 6, 2009 on a charge of forgery after a Phoenix police officer tried to issue her a written warning for illegally posting yard sale signs. When Garcia showed the officer her expired California ID and her matrícula consular ID card, the officer noticed that the birth dates did not match.

The officer called for backup.

Garcia says she tried to explain to the officers that her ID card was valid and that "the California identification was legally obtained except that her date of birth on the identification was entered incorrectly and that she had not had an opportunity to change it."

Garcia was booked into the Fourth Avenue Jail and then sent to the Estrella Jail, where she stayed for 4 days.

After deputies assaulted her and broke her elbow, Garcia says, she was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center, where it was determined that the deputies had broken bones in her left elbow and arm.

Garcia seeks punitive damages for constitutional violations, and payment of her medical bills. She is represented by Daniel R. Ortega Jr. with Roush, McCracken, Guerrero, Miller & Ortega.

Arpaio, who calls himself "America's toughest sheriff," has been named as a defendant in at least 68 lawsuits in the past 3 years, many of them alleging civil rights violations, according to the Courthouse News database.

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