Randy Parraz has filed a federal lawsuit against Maricopa County and several deputies regarding his trumped-up arrest for protesting at a 2008 meeting of the Board of Supervisors.
The pro-union, anti-Joe-Arpaio attorney-activist is currently running for U.S. Senate as a Democrat. If he manages to win over three other Democrats in the race (polls show the election as tight) he will face the Republican nominee, who in all likelihood will be incumbent John McCain.
Parraz filed a $500,000 claim a few weeks ago against the county. The federal lawsuit, filed on Thursday, seeks unspecified damages.
Parraz's county claim wasn't part of the nearly half-a-million in settlements doled out by the county last month to seven protesters. Parraz says he wasn't offered anything during that settlement negotiation.
Parraz's case came at a time when the supervisors and Sheriff Arpaio were getting along relatively well. Only later, when Arpaio's office went after them, did the supervisors wake up and smell the abuse of police powers.
"I have no sympathy whatsoever for the supervisors," Parraz tells New Times.
Back in 2008, before Supervisor Don Stapley learned of the indictment that would pit the supervisors against the Sheriff's Office and then-County Attorney Andrew Thomas, Parraz and his group, the Maricopa Citizens for Safety and Accountability, had lobbied for weeks to have their concerns addressed during a formal meeting. The supervisors refused to place the MCSA on their agenda.
The federal lawsuit alleges malicious and retaliatory prosecution, along with "abuse of process," stemming from the September 29, 2008 meeting of the Supervisors which ended with Parraz's arrest and jailing.
After disrupting the Supervisors' meeting for six seconds to ask why his concerns hadn't been placed on the agenda, Parraz turned and walked out of the meeting. Outside of the auditorium at 301 West Jefferson Street, Parraz was confronted by a deputy who told him to leave the premises entirely.
Parraz and a friend began to leave, the lawsuit states, but were arrested by the deputies anyway -- something the activist had not been "planning on."
Parraz was taken to a holding cell and put in shackles, then marched to another jail cell. Another deputy videotaped him the whole time, leading him to believe his arrest had been pre-ordained. When the "arrest process" was complete, a supervisor ordered deputies to process Parraz for another alleged violation, disorderly conduct, which resulting in hours of extra detainment.
According to the lawsuit:
This order had the effect of unfairly and unnecessarily punishing Mr. Parraz, and was part of a larger design to harass and punish Mr. Parraz.
Months later, a judge threw out the case for lack of evidence. Parraz says he would have had to spend thousands on his defense, but for the kindness of two local attorneys who took his case pro bono.
The payout to Parraz, if there is one, will no doubt come much too late to fund his Senate campaign. But, in any case, Parraz maintains he's not suing for the money: This is about deputies violating the civil rights of citizens, he says.
"This is a message to change their behavior," Parraz says.
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