Civil-rights trial starts for migrant-detaining rancher
Trial in a civil rights lawsuit against Cochise County rancher Roger Barnett began Monday in federal court in Tucson.
The latest suit against the controversial rancher stems from a 2004 incident in a wash near Douglas when Barnett approached a group of illegal immigrants while he was carrying a gun and accompanied by a large dog.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs — five women and 11 men who were trying to cross into the U.S. illegally — say that Barnett held the group captive at gunpoint, threatening that his dog would attack and that he would shoot anyone who tried to escape, a press release from the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund said.
The group says Barnett also kicked one of the members of the group. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund is representing the 16 people.
The federal lawsuit charges Barnett, his wife, Barbara Barnett, and his brother, Donald Barnett, with conspiring to violate the plaintiffs’ civil rights, the release said.
In March 2008, U.S. District Judge John Roll rejected Barnett’s efforts to have the charges thrown out. Roll ruled that there was sufficient evidence of a conspiracy — that the conspiracy denied the plaintiffs their right to interstate travel and the actions of the Barnetts were motivated by race — to allow the matter to be presented to a jury.