Arthur H. Rotstein
Associated Press
February 17, 2009

TUCSON — A federal jury found Tuesday that a southern Arizona rancher didn’t violate the civil rights of a group of illegal immigrants who claimed that he detained them at gunpoint in 2004.

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The eight-member civil jury also found Roger Barnett wasn’t liable on claims of battery and false imprisonment.

But the jury did find him liable on four claims of assault and four claims of infliction of emotional distress and ordered Barnett to pay $77,804 in damages — $60,000 of which were punitive.

Barnett declined to comment afterward, but one of his attorneys, David Hardy, said the plaintiffs lost on the bulk of their claims and that Barnett has a good basis for appeal on the two counts on which he lost.

“They won a fraction of the damages they were seeking,” Hardy said.

All six plaintiffs are citizens of Mexico, five of whom are living in the United States with visa applications pending, and the sixth resides in Mexico but was allowed into the U.S. for the trial, said Nina Perales, an attorney with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. She declined to say where in the U.S. they’re residing.

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