Federal Court Rejects Vigilante Rancher's Motion To Dismiss Civil Suit

MALDEF represents Latinos held at gunpoint by Barnett

March 01, 2005

TUCSON, AZ – Today the United States District Court for Arizona denied several motions filed by border vigilante Roger Barnett in an effort to dismiss a civil suit brought against him by a group of sixteen Latino men and women. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), which represents the plaintiffs in the case, urged the federal court not to dismiss their case because there was sufficient evidence to show that Barnett deprived the plaintiffs of their civil rights when he assaulted them near his ranch in March 2004. The Honorable John M. Roll sided with MALDEF, finding that disposal of the case was inappropriate because there was enough evidence for a reasonable jury to find in favor of the plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs filed suit in March 2005 after they were violently assaulted, detained and threatened with death by Barnett, his wife Barbara Barnett, and his brother Donald Barnett near a state highway along the Arizona-Mexico Border. The plaintiffs, including a young teenage girl, were resting in a wash near Douglas, Arizona, when they were accosted by Roger Barnett, who was armed and accompanied by a large dog. As Barnett held the unarmed group of terrified men and women at gunpoint, he kicked one of the plaintiffs as she was lying on the ground. MALDEF President and General Counsel John Trasviña stated, “The court’s ruling today reflects that Latinos have rights and are not defenseless against the lawless actions of border vigilantes.”

“This lawsuit stems from just one of many instances of violent vigilante activity in which Barnett and others like him have engaged on the southern Arizona border,” said MALDEF Staff Attorney David Urias. “This should serve as a lesson to anyone who thinks attacking Latinos will go unchallenged,” added Urias.

In another similar case, the Arizona Court of Appeals on February 25, 2008 denied Barnett’s appeal after he was found liable by a jury for assaulting a family of Latino U.S. citizens who were hunting on state land near his ranch.

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