February 19, 2013
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Teresa Nelson, Legal Director for the ACLU-MN, 651.645.4097 x122
St. Paul, Minn. – Today, the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota announced that it has filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court against police and the City of Gaylord, the Sibley County Sheriff’s office and others for violating the constitutional rights of Jesus Mendoza Sierra. Ms. Mendoza Sierra’s Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated when the defendant officers and deputies arrested, detained and interrogated her in March of 2012, after the driver of the car she was in was arrested.
Police had no reason to suspect Ms. Mendoza Sierra had committed any criminal activity. Rather, the officers assumed that, because she was Hispanic, she was illegally in the United States. Despite being informed that she had valid Minnesota identification and had no warrants, these officers brought her to the police department where they detained and interrogated her. She was only released after officers took her to her home and entered her bedroom to look at her private immigration documents. Audio from the day of the incident includes a segment in which defendant Gaylord Police Officer Jeff Milette can be heard saying “look at the monkeys, look at the monkeys” in reference to some Latinos in the jail lockup.
The lawsuit seeks damages, declaratory and injunctive relief for the violations of Ms. Mendoza Sierra’s rights.
“In over twenty years of handling §1983 civil rights cases, this is the most blatant disregard of an individual based on ethnicity and national origin by police that I have seen,” stated cooperating attorney Albert Goins.
“The ACLU is greatly concerned about the attitude of law enforcement toward minorities in Gaylord and throughout the state,” stated Charles Samuelson, Executive Director for the ACLU-MN. “Ms. Mendoza Sierra should not have suffered the indignities that she did at the hands of licensed peace officers whose mission is to ‘Protect and Serve.’”
Attorneys working on the case are: cooperating attorney Albert Goins, Goins Law Offices, Ltd. in Minneapolis, Ian Bratlie, Staff Attorney for the Greater Minnesota Racial Justice Project of the ACLU-MN in Mankato, and Teresa Nelson, ACLU-MN Legal Director.