DPS, cops sued for $1-M

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Posted on Aug 07 2000

A family from San Antonio on Friday filed a $1 million civil suit in the U.S. District Court against the CNMI government, the Department of Public Safety and a dozen police officers, alleging illegal detention and manhandling during a series of arrests last year.

Roman Taisacan Cabrera, his wife Isabelle Torres and their three sons Roman Jr., Ian and Aaron accused the police of negligence, recklessness and wantonness before, during and after the criminal arrests that occurred July 2, 1999 at their homes and at work.

They are seeking punitive damages of at least a million dollars as well as an additional award to be determined during the trial for compensatory, public disgrace, lost wages, attorney’s fees, costs of the lawsuit and other monetary relief.

Based on the complaint filed by their lawyer Joseph A. Arriola, the Cabrera family claimed their constitutional rights were violated when a DPS tactical team stormed their San Antonio house late afternoon of July 2, using extreme force and without warrant.

The police allegedly pointed guns at their heads, even slammed one of them against his pickup truck and searched their houses while in front of minor children at that time of their arrests.

Mr. Cabrera, Roman Jr. and Ian were seized at the residence, and Aaron was arrested outside his place of employment, according to the complaint.

The defendants claimed they were detained for four days without being charged, nor given court hearing and legal representation.

No formal charges

They said in the complaint that an arrest warrant had been made out and signed and issued on July 2, 1999, a full week after the alleged criminal offense. This was not stamped by the court’s clerk.

“Plaintiffs were released without a bail hearing or bail having been paid to the court, after having been incarcerated for four days without a formal charge being laid and without having been brought before a judge as required by law,” stated the complaint.

In naming one of the police officers sued by the family, the Cabreras said officer Hillary Tagabuel visited Roman Jr. at the prison asking him to sign a consent to search his house, but he refused.

They also claimed that the police returned to search Roman Jr.’s house later after his arrest without a warrant.

He, along with his father and brother Ian maintained they were arrested illegally based on unlawful entry into the family home without judicial authorization, and based on arrest warrants signed after the July 2 incidents.

The suit painted them as victims of warrantless and illegal entry and arrest, noting the reasons for that police actions were based on alleged events that took place June 26, 1999.

The complaint, however, did not provide details of that incident, but the Attorney General’s Office brought criminal charges against Mr. Cabrera, Roman Jr., Aaron and Conrad Sablan Montano on July 12, 2000.

Damages

In seeking damages, the Cabreras claimed in the suit humiliation, public disgrace, physical and mental distress resulting from the arrests.

Roman Jr. even had to be rushed to the Commonwealth Health Center for treatment of his asthma due allegedly to the injuries and stress he sustained as a result of the arrests.

Ian, who was 18 at that time of the arrest and was suffering from high fever, was jailed alongside adult inmates — an experience he found “harrowing” given his age, lack of prison experience and absence of criminal history, the complaint said.

The arrests led to a “general panic” on the Cabrera compound, with all members of the family, including the minor children, “afraid for their own and each others safety,” it added.

Mrs. Cabrera, who allegedly was not allowed to speak to her husband and her sons during the four days they were in prison, “continues to have nightmares as a result of her experiences,” the complaint said.

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