Civil jury fines rancher for trying to keep illegal aliens off his property
An Arizona rancher who has waged a five-year campaign to stop afloodofillegalaliensfromcrossing his property has been ordered by a civil jury to pay nearly $100,000 for a2004incidentduringwhichheconfrontedafamilyhuntingonhisland.
Roger Barnett, 62, who began rounding up illegal aliens after he said they destroyed his property, killedcalvesandbrokeintohishome, was ordered to pay Ronald Morales, his father, his two young daughters and their friend on claims of negligence,falseimprisonmentandemotional distress.
The jury found in favor of all five plaintiffs, but split responsibility betweenMr.Barnett,Mr.Moralesand his father, Arturo Morales.
The Morales family had sought $210,000damagesinalawsuitsponsored by two civil rights groups, the Border Action Network and the SouthernPovertyLawCenter,which accused Mr. Barnett of vigilantism and abusing the illegal aliens he detained.Thejurysettledonadamage award of $98,000.
“Thisisanhistoricmoment,”said JenniferAllen,directoroftheBorder ActionNetwork.“Thisvictoryisjust the beginning. We can guarantee thateveryofficialwhotriedtosweep thiscaseandissueundertherugand whostillhasthecapacityofbringing criminal charges will hear from us.”
Two other lawsuits brought against Mr. Barnett with the assistance of the Border Action Network weredismissed.Alawsuitfiledbythe Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund is pending, naming Mr. Barnett, his wife and brother, and Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever, in a conspiracy to violate the rights of illegal aliens.
DuringtheMoralestrial,Mr.Barnettdeniedthreateningtheparty,testifying that he only took out his AR15 rifle because the adults in the group were carrying rifles. He also denied accusations by Ronald Morales that he had insulted them with racial slurs and threatened to shoot them.
Mr.Barnett’sbrother,Donald,said inastatement:“IntheMoralesfamily, the father taught the son to trespass, and now the father’s teaching thedaughtershowtotrespassinblatant disregard for the law. I guess in this country, private property and a person’srightsdon’tmeanmuchany more.”
Donald Barnett had been named inthelawsuit,butlaterwasdropped as a defendant.
Mr. Barnett’s Cross Rail Ranch near Douglas, Ariz., has become a major route for northbound illegal aliens. The ranch sits in what CochiseCountylawenforcementauthorities have called “the avenue of choice” for illegal aliens.
“Thousands of aliens have crossed my property,” Mr. Barnett told The Washington Times in a September 2002 interview at his ranch. “There are so many that I can tell you that at times it looks like a slow-motion invasion.”
Mr. Barnett said some of his cattle have died from ingesting plastic bottles left behind by the aliens and that some of the ranch’s trails were littered with trash nearly a foot deep.
AformerCochiseCountysheriff’s deputy who later was successful in the towing and propane business, Mr. Barnett spent $30,000 on electronic sensors, hidden along established trails on his ranch. He searches the ranch for illegal aliens inapickuptruck,dressedinagreen shirt and camouflage hat, with his handgun and rifle, high-powered binoculars and a walkie-talkie to communicate.
His actions have made him a target of alien and drug smugglers in Mexico. Law-enforcement authorities told him the smugglers had placed a bounty on his head.
“This is my land. I’m the victim here,” Mr. Barnett said.
Rancher Roger Barnett, seen here in Sierra Vista, Ariz., on July 29, has been ordered by a civil court jury to pay an illegal-alien family detained on his property for false imprisonment and emotional distress.