The sheriff said “This lawsuit was an invention for attention from the beginning and I am glad to move beyond it.”
ASCENSION PARISH, La. — The case of a Hispanic U.S. citizen held in a Louisiana jail for days after a judge ordered his release got national attention in 2019.
A lawsuit alleging discriminatory policing in Ascension Parish has now been settled with both sides claiming victory Thursday.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana announced it had “won” a settlement for the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office to pay Ramon Torres of Baton Rouge $50,000 plus attorney’s fees. The ACLU said it had “vindicated” Torres after he was held in Ascension Parish Jail on a “fugitive hold” for immigration officials, even after he presented the sheriff’s office with documented proof of U.S. citizenship.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement also confirmed to The Advocate in 2019 that it had not issued a hold for Torres. The ACLU claimed a sheriff’s deputy told Torres they were holding him because he is “Spanish,” adding, “They call ICE on all of y’all.”
But Ascension Parish Sheriff Bobby Webre said the settlement was no win for Torres or the ACLU and stood by his office’s handling of Torres’ case, pointing out that it was not changing any practices or policies as a result of the lawsuit.
“During litigation, Ramon Torres, who was lawfully arrested for DWI, was proved to have been lawfully detained at all times on the orders of a judge. Not on the whim of any deputy, on the lawful orders of a judge,” Webre said in a statement to WWL-TV.
Webre also said the ACLU’s claim that a woman deputy acknowledged a policy of holding all Hispanics for ICE was bogus.
“After dozens of depositions, the ACLU gave up on all their outlandish claims, including their ridiculous claim that a female deputy said all Hispanics are detained for ICE,” Webre said. “They did not depose or even attempt to depose a single female deputy. Why? Because they knew it was fictional from the beginning.”
The sheriff added: “This lawsuit was an invention for attention from the beginning and I am glad to move beyond it.”