Cochise sheriff, rancher face suit
By Michael Marizco
Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever is being sued for a share of a $32 million lawsuit filed Friday in U.S. District Court.
The suit alleges the sheriff has done nothing to stop a Cochise County rancher from apprehending illegal entrants on his own property east of Douglas.
Filed by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the suit alleges rancher Roger Barnett held a group of illegal entrants at gunpoint on his property one year ago , shouted obscenities at the group, kicked one of the women twice and threatened to shoot anybody who tried to leave. It also lists 10 un-named co-conspirators who have known of Barnett's actions in the past and did nothing to prevent them.
Calling the group "racist liars," Barnett says he doesn't recall the incident ever taking place and said he hasn't been served with a lawsuit.
Dever has not been served with a lawsuit and therefore had no response, said Cochise County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Carol Capas.
The suit alleges that on March 7, 2004, 19 illegal entrants were resting in a wash near Douglas when Barnett pulled up on an all-terrain vehicle with a large, barking dog. It claims that Barnett waved his cocked gun at the group, and yelled obscenities at them.
Barnett then walked up to one of the women and kicked her in the leg, then tried to kick her again, the suit alleges. He then called his wife, who arrived with a truck and summoned the U.S. Border Patrol.
The entrants allegedly tried to tell the Border Patrol agents what had happened but were menaced by Barnett.
The suit mentions that Barnett, his brother Donald and his wife, Barbara, have admitted to turning over 12,000 illegal entrants to the Border Patrol since 1998.
It names Dever because he has done nothing to stop Barnett from apprehending illegal entrants, said MALDEF lawyer Araceli Perez.
"Little has been done to remedy this in his own back yard," she said.
The civil rights group hopes to send a message to vigilantes that they cannot operate with impunity, Perez said.
She said the illegal entrants had notified the Border Patrol of their treatment and that was the basis of the evidence against Barnett and, subsequently, Dever.
She said MALDEF has the Border Patrol reports proving the entrants reported their treatment to the arriving agents but did not share them with the Arizona Daily Star when asked to.
The suit asks a jury to reward a total of $16 million in actual damages and $16 million in punitive damages against all the defendants, she said. The money sought is not broken up among the defendants in any particular way but lists the Barnetts, Dever and the 10 unidentified defendants.
"They're trying to destroy the United States like this," Barnett said.
● Contact Michael Marizco at 520-573-4213 or at