Friday, May 16, 2008

Jail Releases Detainee At Center Of Lawsuit (The Morning News, AK)

Jail Releases Detainee At Center Of Lawsuit
Benton County Officers Dispute Allegation

Last updated Thursday, May 15, 2008 7:36 PM CDT in News
By Ron Wood
The Morning News

FAYETTEVILLE - The Benton County Jail released a Hispanic man whose attorney claimed was being held illegally for immigration officials.

Jailers said Thursday the allegation was "full of half-truths."

Jose Guadalupe Solarzano was arrested Saturday on charges of driving while intoxicated in Rogers and taken to jail, according to his attorney, Ken Swindle. On Monday, family members were told Solarzano couldn't be released because there was an immigration hold for him.

Swindle on Tuesday filed a federal lawsuit, now moot, claiming Solarzano's family, from Chicago, gave jailers documentation that Solarzano was a legal resident and the jailers refused to return the documents or release Solarzano. Family members were told Solarzano was being turned over to federal officials.

"It's unfortunate that a federal lawsuit had to be filed for the jail to follow the law," Swindle said Thursday.

Swindle said Solarzano is considering his options and still may sue over the incident.

Jailers on Thursday confirmed Solarzano was released Tuesday but disputed Swindle's characterization of the situation.

Capt. Hunter Petray said Solarzano was gone before Swindle filed suit.

"From what I understand, ICE made the decision to end up releasing the guy and not deporting him," Petray said. "That's a decision they made. I don't think it's anything peculiar, they do that from time to time."

Petray wouldn't speculate on why Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials made the decision.

The suit claimed jailers refused requests to show any authority to continue holding Solarzano.

Swindle said Thursday he since has been given a copy of a detainer, which was dated Sunday, but questions why immigration officials would issue a detainer for a legal resident. Swindle said it appears to him the detainer may have been issued after the fact to give the jail some "cover."

Petray bristled, saying the detainer was not "back-dated."

"We don't do that," Petray said. "We've got no reason to do that."

Swindle said he thinks the Benton County Jail has a policy of holding people because of their race.

"If you've got brown skin and you get picked up, you're gonna sit in jail for a while, whatever your immigration status is," Swindle said. "He shouldn't have been held at all and that's a pretty scary thing, to be picked up and held basically because he's got brown skin.

"Solarzano wasn't held because he's Hispanic but because of the detainer, Petray said.

"That's just obviously not true," Petray said. "I don't think we've done anything wrong with this guy or the last guy that he made the accusation about."

In February, a federal magistrate judge threw out a lawsuit Swindle filed claiming the Benton County Jail continued to hold a man for immigration officials without proper authority after he'd paid his bail.

In a one-page order, U.S. Magistrate Judge James Marschewski said the case was moot because Amilcar DeJesus Lopez-Santos was no longer being held at the jail.

County officials said Lopez-Santos was picked up by immigration officials within the time allowed.

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