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US Supreme Court turns away rancher Barnett in assault case

US Supreme Court turns away rancher Barnett in assault case

Cochise resident must pay illegal entrants $87,000

  • Updated

The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld a 2009 ruling against Cochise County rancher Roger Barnett, forcing him to pay about $87,000 in damages related to his assault of illegal immigrants on his ranch in 2004.

The decision comes after the same ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in February.

The court disagreed with the arguments made in the appeal, which included a claim that U.S. District Judge John Roll made errors while presiding over the 2009 trial. Roll was one of six people killed in the Jan. 8 mass shooting in Tucson.

In that February 2009 trial, a federal jury issued a split verdict in the case against Barnett stemming from the 2004 incident. The jury found he didn't violate the group's civil rights and that he wasn't liable on claims of battery and false imprisonment.

But the jury found him liable on four claims of assault and four claims of infliction of emotional distress, and ordered Barnett to pay $77,804 in damages. The $87,000 he must pay reflects that original amount plus interest.

The 2004 incident occurred near Douglas when Barnett approached a group of 16 illegal immigrants while he was carrying a gun and accompanied by a large dog. Attorneys for the plaintiffs - five women and 11 men who had crossed into the U.S. illegally - say Barnett held the group captive at gunpoint, threatening that his dog would attack and that he would shoot anyone who tried to escape.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund applauded the ruling against the "vigilante" rancher.

"Roger Barnett can hide no more behind his frivolous appeal," said Marisa Bono of the organization. "It is time for Barnett to pay the victims for his deplorable actions."

Barnett's legal team says he is no vigilante and was only acting in self-defense on that 2004 day.

This is the second case in which a ruling has been upheld against Barnett. In February 2008, the Arizona Court of Appeals refused to throw out a jury verdict of guilty from November 2006 - and a nearly $100,000 award - against Barnett in another civil case in which a jury concluded he falsely imprisoned members of a Douglas family.

Contact reporter Brady McCombs at 573-4213 or


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