Lawyers: Mem­phis re­porter’s ar­rest was re­tal­i­a­tion

The Commercial Appeal - - Viewpoint - Daniel Con­nolly Mem­phis Com­mer­cial Ap­peal USA TO­DAY NET­WORK - TEN­NESSEE

A new le­gal fil­ing in the case of de­tained re­porter Manuel Du­ran al­leges the Mem­phis Po­lice Depart­ment tar­geted him for ar­rest at an April 3 protest be­cause he pre­vi­ously pub­lished sto­ries crit­i­cal of the agency.

“The ac­tions pur­sued by gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials in this case threaten core First Amend­ment free­doms that are es­sen­tial to our democ­racy: the right to crit­i­cize and ex­pose the ac­tions of gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, and the right of mem­bers of the press to write and pub­lish about them,” the le­gal fil­ing be­gins.

A po­lice af­fi­davit says Du­ran was ar­rested dur­ing the protest be­cause he re­fused com­mands to leave the street. He was one of nine ar­rested that day.

“At no time do we tar­get in­di­vid­u­als based on their crit­i­cism and/or opin­ion of the Mem­phis Po­lice Depart­ment,” depart­ment spokes­woman Lt. Karen Ru­dolph wrote in an email. “As it re­lates specif­i­cally to the ar­rests at 201 Po­plar Av­enue, the of­fi­cers re­sponded to an un­per­mit­ted protest, is­sued law­ful or­ders, made prob­a­ble cause ar­rests, and acted within their au­thor­ity.”

The other eight ar­rested were re­leased on bond and most of their cases are still pend­ing. On April 5, lo­cal pros­e­cu­tors dropped charges against Du­ran.

But fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion agents picked up Du­ran and trans­ported him to an im­mi­gra­tion de­ten­tion cen­ter in Jena, Louisiana, where he re­mains.

The new fed­eral pe­ti­tion, filed Fri­day in Louisiana by the South­ern Poverty Law Cen­ter, seeks Du­ran’s re­lease on sev­eral con­sti­tu­tional grounds.

It says Mem­phis po­lice re­tal­i­ated against Du­ran for sto­ries he pro­duced for his on­line Span­ish-lan­guage out­let Mem­phis Noti­cias. The le­gal fil­ing cites a July 2017 Face­book post about al­le­ga­tions of co­op­er­a­tion be­tween lo­cal po­lice and im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment at a traf­fic stop.

“Fol­low­ing that pub­li­ca­tion, a Mem­phis po­lice of­fi­cer sent (Du­ran) a text mes­sage ask­ing him to take down the story and meet with a se­nior of­fi­cial in the depart­ment,” the le­gal fil­ing said.

Mem­phis po­lice have long said that they don’t co­op­er­ate with im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment.

The fed­eral pe­ti­tion also cites Du­ran’s cov­er­age this year of the case of the Mex­i­can im­mi­grant whose body was over­looked and found weeks later in a Mem­phis po­lice im­pound lot.

The pe­ti­tion also says U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment shows a pat­tern of re­tal­i­a­tion against ac­tivists.

ICE spokesman Bryan D. Cox on Mon­day re­ferred to an ear­lier state­ment that con­tends Du­ran missed his day in At­lanta im­mi­gra­tion court in 2007. Based on the ab­sence, the court or­dered him de­ported. ICE says he has lived in the U.S. il­le­gally since then.

Du­ran’s at­tor­neys have asked the At­lanta im­mi­gra­tion court to re­open the case, say­ing he didn’t re­ceive no­tice and that he’d face dan­ger as a re­porter in El Sal­vador.

Du­ran’s le­gal team and sup­port­ers held a news con­fer­ence Mon­day on a lawn out­side the Crim­i­nal Jus­tice Cen­ter at 201 Po­plar.

“The Mem­phis Po­lice Depart­ment un­jus­ti­fi­ably ar­rested Manuel Du­ran,” said Mauri­cio Calvo of Latino Mem­phis. “The sher­iff ’s of­fice held him un­justly as well.”

The Shelby County Sher­iff ’s Of­fice is­sued a state­ment days ago that says in part, “By state law, when­ever a per­son is booked into a jail, the per­son is asked about the coun­try of birth and cit­i­zen­ship.”

“In­for­ma­tion must be pro­vided to ICE if the jailer can­not de­ter­mine the per­son’s cit­i­zen­ship sta­tus or if the per­son ap­pears to be in vi­o­la­tion of the Im­mi­gra­tion and Nat­u­ral­iza­tion Act.”

Reach re­porter Daniel Con­nolly at 529-5296, daniel.con­nolly@com­mer­cialap­, or on Twit­ter at @daniel­con­nolly.


Melisa Valdez (left) part­ner of Manuel Du­ran, reads a let­ter penned by him from a im­mi­gra­tion de­ten­tion cen­ter in Louisiana, dur­ing a press con­fer­ence giv­ing an up to his im­mi­gra­tion case. MARK WE­BER/THE

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