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Justice Department appeals ruling in discrimination case against Alamance County Sheriff’s Office

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond will take a second look at alleged discriminatory policing in Alamance County, after the Justice Department filed its notice of appeal of U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder’s August decision dismissing such claims against Sheriff Terry Johnson.

In a lawsuit filed in 2012, DOJ alleged that Johnson and his office had engaged in a number of discriminatory practices in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, including targeting Latino residents for investigation, traffic stops, arrests, seizures, and other enforcement actions.

At the trial earlier this year, experts testified that Johnson’s deputies stopped Latino drivers up to 10 times more than non-Latino drivers along major Alamance County highways.

According to the ACLU of North Carolina:

Witnesses also testified about numerous incidents in which Johnson and other ACSO employees expressed prejudice against Latino residents, such as Johnson allegedly ordering deputies to “bring me Mexicans,” “put heat on” predominantly Latinos neighborhoods, and “go out there and get me some of those taco eaters.” Deputies were also accused of sharing links to what the Associated Press described as “a bloody video game where players shoot people entering the country illegally, including children and pregnant women.”

In his decision, Schroeder found that the government had failed to introduce any evidence of individuals who were deprived of their constitutional rights and relied instead upon “vague, isolated statements attributed to Sheriff Johnson.” He added that nobody testified that any ACSO employee carried out any improper directive or otherwise violated any individual’s constitutional rights.

“Indeed, all witnesses, including those called by the Government, denied that they ever did or knew any ACSO officer who did,” Schroeder wrote.

The judge also found that statistical analysis offered by the government was unreliable and not persuasive, “failing to sufficiently compare ACSO’s treatment of Hispanics to others who were similarly situated.”

For more on the case, read the story earlier this summer by Policy Watch’s Sarah Ovaska and this post on the filing of the complaint.

 

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