Lawsuit filed against Sheriff Hodgson alleges department illegally detained immigrant

By Shenandoah Briere | Jun 20, 2018
Photo by: Douglas McCulloch Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson speaks at an immigration symposium at UMass Law on April 6, 2017.

A lawsuit has been filed against Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson alleging a violation of constitutional rights after an immigrant said he was unlawfully detained.

The lawsuit was filed on June 19 by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice and Latham and Watkins LLP. In addition to Hodgson, both the superintendent of the Bristol County House of Correction and the assistant deputy superintendent of the Bristol County Ash Street Jail and Regional Lock-up are named in the lawsuit, along with several unnamed officers from the Ash Street Jail.

Moises Rivas, a 38-year-old New Bedford resident, alleges in court documents he was not able to be bailed out of jail on charges stemming from a domestic dispute several times because of an immigration detainer from the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and other federal forms. He alleges he was detained illegally from August 18, 2017 to September 5, 2017.

On various occasions, Rivas’ family attempted to post his bail after he was arraigned on August 25. Lawyers are claiming the refusal to release Rivas was illegal due to a ruling by the state’s Supreme Judicial Court ruling a person cannot be held by officers solely on the basis of the request of federal authorities.

Rivas alleges his Fourth Amendment protection against unlawful searches and seizures and his Fourteenth Amendment due process rights were violated due to the 18-day detention. He was able to be released on bail on September 7, 2017.

Rivas is seeking damages under false imprisonment, infliction of emotional distress, and legal fees, and he wants the court to declare holding individuals based on ICE detainers violates the Supreme Judicial Court ruling.

In a statement, Sheriff Hodgson refuted the claims made in the lawsuit. He said Rivas was not held on an ICE detainer, but rather by a judge in New Bedford District Court pending his criminal case, and the jail was only asked to notify ICE if Rivas was released on bail.

As for being denied bail, Hodgson said it was the decision of the three clerk magistrates who visited the jail, because they believed ICE would arrest him. A fourth magistrate agreed to accept bail and Hodgson said Rivas was immediately released. Hodgson said no one in the sheriff’s office ever mentioned Rivas could not be released due to ICE paperwork.

“This lawsuit is yet another attempt to paint those committed to obeying the law and keeping the community safe with the brush of bigotry,” Hodgson said in the statement. “Its purpose is propaganda intended only to try and convince an already frightened community that a commitment to observance of the law and safety in the cities is driven by racial animus.”

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