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    Christopher B. Dupont
     Trautman Dupont PLC 
     PO Box 431
     Phoenix, AZ, 85001

     Phone: (602) 770-8942

    Christopher R. Trautman
     Trautman Dupont PLC
     6858 N. 85th Street
     Scottsdale, AZ  85250

     Phone: (602) 670-0073



Arizona immigration law protesters fight fine, say deputies targeted them

by JJ Hensley - Jan. 11, 2011 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic

The protests against Arizona's immigration law that began last summer have continued, quietly, in a small downtown Phoenix courtroom.

A handful of demonstrators arrested in July 29 protests opposing the law have chosen to fight instead of pay a $450 fine, and they want to turn the tables, putting the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office on trial over selective enforcement.

The defendants, whose attorneys put a sheriff's deputy on the stand for more than two hours in an evidentiary hearing last week, claim the Sheriff's Office targeted demonstration leaders for arrest to send a message to hundreds of others gathered that afternoon on Madison Street outside the Fourth Avenue Jail to protest Senate Bill 1070.

"I think there's evidence that they targeted certain individuals that they believed were leaders in the hopes that those arrests would encourage others to leave," Phoenix attorney Chris Dupont said.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio said in an interview that the scene was volatile that day, with demonstrators flooding the streets and intentionally blocking the doors to the jail to prevent officers from bringing inmates into the facility.

Arpaio said deputies heard rumblings that demonstrators might target the jails, but the protests unfolding around the city made for a turbulent atmosphere.

"We were ready for anything that occurred," Arpaio said. "But you can't believe everything you hear."

Throughout last week's hearing, attorneys for the demonstrators seized on three key points while sheriff's Lt. Chad Brackman was on the stand:

-The Sheriff's Office did not have a coordinated plan for how to handle the demonstrators.

-Many more demonstrators did not follow orders and could have been arrested, such as their clients.

-Brackman's order to have other deputies sign his name to the defendants' citations raises questions about whether he can personally avow that the defendants broke the law.

The arrests outside the jail that day took place in phases. The first came for the demonstrators who chained themselves to barriers to block a "sally port," a large retractable door where police cars drop off inmates on the northern side of the Fourth Avenue Jail.

The next phase came several minutes later, after the first wave of demonstrators was brought inside.

Footage of the incident clearly shows Brackman speaking into a megaphone and warning remaining demonstrators to clear the street and area in front of the sally port or face arrest.

Another defense attorney questioned whether people in the back of the crowd could have heard Brackman's command.

Dupont said in court that his client, Sunita Patel, was moving to the sidewalk when deputies grabbed her. Patel, an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, was wearing a hat that denoted her role as a legal observer to the protests, a fact that deputies intentionally overlooked in their zeal to arrest her, Dupont said.

Three members of the media were also detained in the scrum, but were released on the orders of Deputy Chief Brian Sands.

"Guys on the (front) line didn't have time to tell who's who when they're making arrests," Sands said. "I didn't feel they (media members) were part of the protest, they were just reporting on it."

The release of media members further fueled the defendants' theory that deputies were targeting certain individuals for arrest.

Sands, however, said the arrests were more a matter of circumstance: Those nearest the deputies who refused to disperse were taken into custody.

After that, many of the remaining demonstrators moved out of the street, he said.

After last week's hearing, Justice of the Peace Armando Gandarilla ordered the Sheriff's Office to turn over more information to defense attorneys, including duty rosters of deputies who worked during the demonstration, notes from the agency's planning meetings and department policies.

Another pretrial conference in the case is set for next month.

Despite the costs of fighting a $450 fine for failure to obey police and obstructing a thoroughfare, Dupont said his client intends to see the case through to the end.

"Thank goodness for people who are willing to stand up to tyranny and injustice, even at great personal expense," he said.