NEW ORLEANS — A Honduran-born United States citizen has settled a lawsuit with a Louisiana sheriff’s office that jailed him in 2018 on suspicion that he was in the country illegally, the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana said Thursday.
A federal court document filed Monday shows Ramon Torres of Baton Rouge reached a settlement with the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office. The settlement still needs final court approval and details were not in the record. However, the ACLU said in a news release that Torres will receive $50,000 plus attorneys’ fees.
The lawsuit said a judge had ordered that Torres, of Baton Rouge, be released without having to post bond following an arrest on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. But he was held for three days because he was wrongly suspected of being in the country illegally, the suit said.
“Our client Ramon Torres endured a terrifying and dehumanizing ordeal, and we’re glad he’s receiving the compensation he deserves,” Bruce Hamilton, a senior staff attorney with ACLU of Louisiana, said in the news release.
The lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Baton Rouge, says Torres was born in Honduras in 1988 and was brought to the U.S. as a child. He became a citizen in 2009. It says he had a valid Louisiana driver’s license and other documentation showing he was a citizen. And it says he was held because he was suspected of having violated immigration laws based on his last name and dark skin.
The sheriff’s office denied the claims in court and Sheriff Bobby Webre denies that Torres’ name or skin color played a part in his being held. He told The Advocate on Thursday that the immigration hold came on the orders of another local judge, now retired, “and not on the whim of any deputy.”
“No court ruled that this office violated any law or policy. My deputies handled this situation in accordance with our policies and procedures and by order of a judge,” Webre told the newspaper.