WACO, Texas (CN) - A Texas sheriff threw two Latino men into jail for 39 days "with no charges, no hearing, and no probable cause" and seized the $14,000 they had saved up to buy a new car, the men claim in Federal Court.More on the story from the Dallas Observer. Do we suspend our laws and protections when it comes to illegal aliens?
Roberto Moreno-Gutierrez and Jaime Moreno-Gutierrez sued Hill County, the Hill County Sheriff's Department and the Texas Department of Public Safety, in Federal Court. Hill County, whose seat is Hillsboro, is between Waco and Dallas.
"On March 31, 2011, plaintiffs Roberto Moreno-Gutierrez and Jaime Moreno-Gutierrez left their home in Killeen, Texas and were traveling to a car dealership in Plano, Texas to purchase a vehicle, specifically a 2007 Nissan Maxima Hybrid Electric Vehicle," the complaint states.
"Defendant Jaime Moreno-Gutierrez, having sold a prior vehicle, a 2004 GMC Envoy, for nine thousand and no/100ths ($9,000.00) dollars, part cash and part check and combining his money with a loan of four thousand and no/100ths ($4,000.00) dollars, had gathered together over fourteen thousand and no/100ths ($14,000.00) dollars in cash and checks for the purchase, which is confirmed by Hill County Jail property receipts."
The men claim Texas State Trooper Carl R. Clary pulled them over, driving a K-9 unit.
"The trooper provided no traffic violation information or reason for the stop to the plaintiffs," the complaint states. "The trooper requested driver licenses from both plaintiffs, which he then took to his patrol unit. Upon returning, he requested to search the vehicle. Consent was given, and he then brought out his dog. After a search, the dog was put in its kennel. No drugs or drug paraphernalia were found in the vehicle or on the plaintiffs.
Their lawsuit doesn't say it in so many words, but both the Moreno-Gutierrezes seem to be in the country illegally. But the charge on which they were booked into jail was listed as money laundering, according to jail records obtained by the men's attorney. Even if they are undocumented immigrants, the men claim that both the Texas Department of Public Safety and Hill County authorities violated basic due process protections.
To begin with, they were never told they were under arrest and never read their Miranda rights. They were simply told by Clary that they would be interviewed where it was quiet. Also, according to the lawsuit, no probable cause affidavit was ever filed, they were never brought before a magistrate and they never had a bond hearing, all requirements for holding someone in jail. State law requires authorities to release those they arrest within 72 hours if a magistrate does not find probable cause for their detention. And ICE's detention holds on non-citizens last for 48 hours, according to suit.
Needless to say, those time periods had been well exceeded by May 9, when the men were released on an immigration bond.
The lawsuit claims that Hill County routinely holds illegal immigrants for longer than allowed by law. In this case at least, it says the men suffered a loss of their constitutional rights and liberty, and that this was intentionally inflicted. They're asking for unspecified damages.