Latino Family Alleges Prince William Police Used Excessive Force

December 8, 2009
Contact: John Garcia, Director of Communications (212) 739-7513 or jgarcia@latinojustice.org


Washington, D.C., December 8, 2009—A new civil lawsuit filed in federal court alleges that Prince William County police unjustly raided the home of a Latino family and used excessive force to arrest the parents who were later acquitted of any criminal wrong doing.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Virginia on November 23rd, alleges that “the raid is an example of an existing problem of discrimination against Latinos in Prince William County in the wake of a resolution aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration,” said Yolanda Hawkins-Bautista, a senior associate at Howrey LLP.

LatinoJustice/PRLDEF, working with Howrey and Patton Boggs LLP, allege that Prince William County Police used excessive force when they entered the home of Juan and Esperanza Guerrero in violation of the Fourth Amendment. In addition, the lawsuit alleges assault and battery, false arrest and false imprisonment, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. The lawsuit seeks declaratory judgment and money damages.

On November 24, 2007, a Prince William County Police officer went to Juan and Esperanza Guerrero’s home in Prince William County to serve a routine truancy summons on a relative that did not live in the home, according to the lawsuit.

Esperanza Guerrero told the police officer that the relative did not live there, but the police officer continued to force his way into the home. After four additional officers arrived, the police barged through the front door, dragged Esperanza Guerrero outside the house,arrested her and pepper sprayed her husband, Juan Guerrero, who was in his home. The spray injured his eyes and intimidated the grandmother and his four children aged five to 14 years old. Police arrested Juan Guerrero, who was released the same night, his wife spent two nights in jail. The court dismissed all criminal charges at trial a few months later.

Incidents against Latinos have been on the rise in Prince William County since the county approved a resolution in July 2007 that empowered local police officers to act like immigration officials, said Cesar Perales, President and General Counsel of LatinoJustice/PRLDEF.

“Latino residents of Prince William County have endured humiliation and even suffered actual injuries from the actions of police officers who have not and cannot abide by the resolution in a non-discriminatory fashion,” Mr. Perales said. “This form of discrimination and harassment is intolerable.”

A number of Prince William County residents filed a lawsuit to stop the county’s resolution when it was first passed, arguing that it would have a discriminatory impact against law-abiding Latino citizens of Prince William County, said Christina Guerola Sarchio, a partner at Patton Boggs, who is leading the efforts to defend the family for free. That lawsuit was dismissed because the resolution had not yet gone into effect.

“We have been monitoring the situation since then and speaking to a number of citizens who have been wrongfully detained and improperly treated by police officers carrying out this county mandate,” Ms. Sarchio said. “Few people have been willing to come forward. However, the Guerrero family felt strongly about the miscarriage of justice in their case.”

About Howrey

Founded in 1956, Howrey LLP is a global law firm with over 700 attorneys and more than 50 economic, financial and regulatory consultants. Howrey has offices in Washington DC; Northern Virginia; Houston, Texas; New York, New York; Los Angeles, Irvine, East Palo Alto and San Francisco, California; Salt Lake City, Utah; Chicago, Illinois; London, England; Brussels, Belgium; Paris, France; Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Munich, Germany; Madrid, Spain and Taipei, Taiwan. Howrey's affiliate, The CapAnalysis Group, LLC (economic, financial, and litigation consultants) teams with Howrey attorneys as a strategic business resource. A consistent American Lawyer “A-List” and PLC Which lawyer? “Global 50” firm, Howrey is one of the most frequently used law firms by the world’s leading companies. Howrey’s Intellectual Property practice was ranked as a top national IP practice and the Top IP Appellate practice by IP Law & Business and its Antitrust practice topped Global Competition Review’s “GCR 100.” As the winner of the 2003 Thomas L. Sager Award from the Minority Corporate Counsel Association, Howrey is committed to the ideals of diversity and is equally committed to the tenets of pro bono and public service. Howrey's “Advantage of Focus” makes it the clear choice for antitrust, intellectual property and complex business dispute resolution. For more information, visit our Web site at www.howrey.com.

About Patton Boggs

Based in Washington, D.C., Patton Boggs is a leader in public policy, litigation, and business law, and is well known for its deep bipartisan roots in the U.S. political arena. The firm's core practice areas are Public Policy and Regulatory, Litigation, Business, and Intellectual Property. With offices in Northern Virginia, New Jersey, New York, Dallas, Denver, Anchorage, and internationally in Doha, Qatar and Abu Dhabi, UAE, our more than 600 lawyers and professionals provide comprehensive, practical and cost-effective legal counsel to clients around the globe. For more information, visit us at www.pattonboggs.com. About LatinoJustice PRLDEF LatinoJustice PRLDEFestablished in 1972, has won landmark civil rights cases in education, housing, voting, migrant, immigrant, employment and other civil rights. LatinoJustice PRLDEF has fought for the right of non-English speaking students to get a good education, against housing discrimination in city-owned apartments, and to open up employment opportunities for all people. http://www.latinojustice.org/

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