PHOENIX (CN) – Sheriff Joe Arpaio faces four more lawsuits from people – two of them attorneys – who say Arpaio’s officers abused them after illegally arresting them last year for protesting Arizona’s immigration law.
Sunita Patel, an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, claims she was “falsely arrested and imprisoned for approximately 15 hours, during which time she was repeatedly subjected to illegal and abusive custodial interrogations, and then maliciously prosecuted for almost a year thereafter, all in retaliation for exercising her constitutional rights to engage in the First Amendment protected activity of observing and documenting Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office officers’ behavior during a peaceful political protest.”
Patel says she was standing on a sidewalk outside the Fourth Avenue Jail on July 29, 2010 “to observe and document the actions of the MSCO in policing First Amendment activity undertaken by hundreds of protestors peacefully protesting” the state’s immigration law, Arizona Senate Bill 1070.
Patel, who had been asked to provide legal support by Puente, an immigrant-rights organization, and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, was wearing a neon green hat on the day of the protest to identify herself as “legal support,” according to her complaint.
Patel says Arpaio failed to train his deputies on “the First Amendment rights of bystanders to observe/and or document a protest and law enforcement (mis)conduct at said protest without suffering retaliatory and false arrest and/or malicious prosecution.”
Co-defendant David Trombi, then Arpaio’s patrol bureau resources chief, knew that Patel was there as a legal observer, but let her be arrested and taken to the jail, the Patel says. She says her camera was confiscated: she had photographed of protesters being arrested.
After being arrested, Patel says, she was falsely charged with obstructing a public thoroughfare and failing to obey the order of a police, and was criminally prosecuted for more than 10 months before charges were dismissed.
Patel seeks declaratory judgment and an injunction requiring Arpaio and Maricopa County to “develop and implement formal policies and procedures and training materials concerning the constitutional rights of individuals to observe, document and photograph law enforcement officers’ conduct,” and compensatory, punitive, and treble damages. She is represented by Darius Charney with the Center for Constitutional Rights.
Attorney Roxanna Orrell, who is licensed to practice in Texas and Minnesota, says she was in town to offer legal advice to protesters. She says she was not protesting, but merely observing, and was not “doing anything illegal prior to being arrested and was clearly arrested because of her obvious support of the protestors.”
Orrell says Arpaio pressed “false and baseless charges” of failing to obey a police officer, which “not only caused plaintiff great stress and anxiety but also posed a potential threat to her being able to practice law.”
Prosecutors dismissed the charges after being notified she had an attorney.
She seeks punitive damages for false arrest, emotional distress and violations of her civil and constitutional rights.
She is represented in Federal Court by Paul Gattone of Tucson.
The other two arrestees sued Arpaio and his office in Maricopa County Court.
Gustavo Ramirez says he was arrested and hauled off to a jail garage, also on July 29, 2010, though he was not violating any laws.
Before being arrested, Ramirez had said through a megaphone: “We are not criminals; the sheriff is a criminal. Arrest Arpaio, not the people. This has been one of the deadliest months for undocumented people crossing the desert,” according to the complaint.
In the garage, Ramirez says, deputies “unnecessarily pulled and pushed” him, “to vent their anger over what he had been saying in public about defendant Arpaio and SB 1070.”
One deputy pressed Ramirez’s face into the garage floor, while another “made sport out of kicking him in the back, legs, abdomen, and other parts of his body, including his hands,” Ramirez says.
He says deputies ground his face into the cement and held his hands behind his back, “jamming his arms up so excruciatingly far that they felt they would pop out of their sockets.”
When the beating ended, one deputy told him, “Now you’re not [resisting arrest],” the complaint states.
Ramirez says that since the beating he has had “terrifying flashbacks associated with the trauma he experienced from a car accident when he was 11 years old.”
He seeks compensatory and punitive damages for false arrest and assault. He is represented by Antonio Bustamante.
In the third complaint, Audrey Williams claims she was arrested the same day, for protesting outside the Wells Fargo Bank building, and charged with obstructing a public thoroughfare.
Williams says Arpaio’s office denied her her medication for fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis the 26 hours she was in the Fourth Avenue Jail.
She adds that “the extreme Phoenix summer heat, coupled with the stress of the arrest and booking process, exacerbated the pain,” and that jailers “grudgingly put her in a wheelchair.”
With no explanation, Williams says, she and other women were removed from a cell and placed into solitary confinement where she “was terrified of the constricted space into which she had been deposited.”
Williams says she “pleaded with jailers to be told why she had been isolated and dispatched to such a psychologically grotesque place,” and the jailer told her: “There is nothing you can say to make me put you back in population.”
She seeks compensatory damages for negligence and negligent infliction of emotional distress. She is represented by Antonio Bustamante.
Arpaio, the self-proclaimed “America’s toughest sheriff,” has been sued more than 300 times in recent years, often on civil rights charges. Plaintiffs include sitting and retired judges and other officials.