Joe Arpaio and Steven Seagal Sued Over Cockfighting Raid/Reality Show Fodder

The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, action-movie star Steven Seagal, and others have been named in a lawsuit stemming from a raid last year where Arpaio and his boys brought the dog-and-pony show to arrest a single cockfighting suspect.

Attorney Robert Campos -- who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the arrestee, Jesus Llovera -- tells New Times his client's civil rights were violated during the raid, claiming the entire "purpose and setup was to provide publicity for Seagal's [reality television] show."

In the lawsuit, Campos says the MCSO started an investigation into Llovera for cockfighting, and eventually "laid siege" on Llovera's house early on March 9, 2011.

Llovera -- who was on probation for a low-level misdemeanor he earned by watching a cockfight -- may or may not have been allowed to have animals as part of his probation, and the raid came after a detective said he saw and heard animals at Llovera's place the day before.

An armored truck loaded with MCSO deputies, Seagal's producers, and cameramen smashed through the gated driveway in the front of the house, while a tank occupied by Seagal and sheriff's deputies rolled over a gate in the back.

The lawsuit says "diversionary bombs" were deployed as deputies exited the tank, and a door and a window were smashed so the MCSO could make its entrance.

Remember, we're talking about a guy who's on probation for a low-level misdemeanor, which Campos equates to "as serious as a traffic ticket."

"At least thirty" MCSO Tactical Operations Unit personnel rushed into Llovera's home in full riot gear, and arrested him without incident, the lawsuit says.

Then it was time for Llovera to sign the release to be on Seagal's television show, Lawman.

Llovera refused to sign the release, which pretty much ruined what the lawsuit calls Arpaio's urge "to subject Mr. Llovera to a very public and humiliating arrest in front of Seagal's cameras, even though he knew that Mr. Llovera had not violated any criminal statutes."

But the news still got out about Llovera's arrest because -- of course -- Arpaio sent out a press release, inviting the local news media to cover the spectacle.

"Is this the way to spend money, use resources to arrest one person?" Campos asks New Times. "The sheriff's representatives say you can't [take] any chances, but you have to use common sense with your resources in law enforcement."

The response from the sheriff's office about the whole thing came out in September, after Seagal was accused of shooting a puppy in the head.

"Llovera was known to Sheriff's deputies and Phoenix Police to have potential ties to a Mexican drug cartel," a press release said. "He had been previously arrested on cockfighting charges. Sheriff's deputies were also warned that it was possible other drug cartel members might be present at Llovera's home so extra precautions in the deployment of personnel and equipment were taken to safeguard the operation."

Campos dismisses the cartel accusation as "a bunch of hokey."

Campos says Seagal's a big part of the lawsuit because he wasn't even a valid member of law enforcement -- he was just a civilian when he rolled in armed to Llovera's house.

We've already covered Seagal's issues with playing cop, which you can read about by clicking here.

Aside from seeking monetary damages for the whole event -- and Llovera's damaged property -- Campos says he wants "the community to say, 'Enough is enough, he's not prosecuting legitimate sex offenses, and there's no money.'"

You can read through the details of the lawsuit below:

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley