Federal Trial Against Vigilante Rancher Begins Today

MALDEF represents Latinos held at gunpoint by Barnett

February 02, 2009

TUCSON, AZ – A civil trial in federal court begins today on behalf of a group of individuals who were assaulted and threatened with death by a vigilante rancher and others operating along the Arizona-Mexico border. The lawsuit charges Roger Barnett, his wife Barbara Barnett, and his brother Donald Barnett, with conspiring to violate the plaintiffs’ civil rights.

The plaintiffs are five women and 11 men who were resting at a wash in Douglas, Arizona when they were accosted by defendant Roger Barnett who was armed with a gun and accompanied by a large dog. Roger Barnett held the group captive at gunpoint, threatening that his dog would attack and that he would shoot anyone who tried to leave. During the encounter, Barnett kicked a plaintiff as she was lying, unarmed, on the ground.

This is not the first racial assault case filed against the Barnett family. The Morales family and Emma English, a family friend, are U.S. citizens who filed suit after Barnett confronted them on state land in November 2004, while they were on a family hunting trip. Armed with a semi-automatic military-style assault rifle, Barnett held the family at gunpoint, cursed and screamed racial slurs at them and threatened to kill them all. In September 2008, the Arizona Supreme Court rejected Barnett’s appeal and allowed to stand a jury award to the family of close to $100,000 in damages.

“Anti-Latino hate crimes are rising and these cases against dangerous vigilantes send a strong message to those who mistakenly believe they can violate Latino civil rights with impunity,” stated MALDEF staff attorney Marisol Perez. “This lawsuit highlights the danger when laypersons, motivated by racial animus, attempt to take the law into their own hands,” added co-counsel David Urias of the law firm of Freedman Boyd Hollander Goldberg & Ives.

The trial began today, Monday, February 2, 2009 at 9:00 am in Chief Judge Roll’s courtroom in Tucson, Arizona and will continue through Friday, February 13, 2009.

For all media inquiries, please contact Laura Rodriguez.

Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund