Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods has already been on my “side-eye” list since he appeared to at least partially blame Ajike Owens for her own violent death at the hands of alleged racist and habitual child harasser Susan Lorincz by going out of his way to emphasize that Owens and Lorincz had been involved in an ongoing “feud” and saying he wishes they both made better choices on the day only one of them took someone’s life. As it turns out, several neighbors have reported that Lorincz has actually been in an ongoing feud with all the children in the neighborhood as well as their parents and that the 58-year-old has a long history of harassment, threats and racist verbal attacks on children.
Woods had also been under criticism because of what many perceive as a lackluster response by law enforcement, which took four days to arrest a woman who shot another woman through a closed and locked door because they needed to determine whether Florida’s “stand your ground” law applied to the case. (Spoiler alert: It didn’t.) Woods has largely gone with the “don’t hate the law enforcer, hate the law” explanation in defending himself against that particular grievance.
Anyway, Woods might have a history of bad judgment calls that goes beyond making problematic statements regarding the victim of a violent and senseless killing. It turns out that in January of last year, a lawsuit was filed by nonprofit activist organizations that accused the sheriff of unlawfully detaining a Jamaican man until ICE could come to the scene, despite the fact that the detainee is a permanent resident of the United States.
From WTSP 10:
Through a Tampa-based law firm, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union are suing on behalf of Neville Christopher Brooks who they say was wrongfully detained.
The lawsuit is against Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods and deputies, who the groups argue held Brooks, of Ocala, without any warrant from federal immigration enforcement.
“The case challenges his unlawful detention and MCSO’s discriminatory policy of detaining and referring all foreign-born individuals, or those perceived as foreign-born, to Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE), even if they are American citizens or otherwise lawfully in this country,” the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote in an email.
The SPLC says deputies detained Brooks for a since-dismissed misdemeanor in August 2020 – but kept holding him for ICE after he posted bond, even though the feds reportedly told the sheriff’s office he wasn’t subject to detention.
“The Marion County Sheriff and his deputies never discussed Mr. Brooks’ citizenship or immigration status with him, nor did they receive any detainer or warrant from ICE,” wrote the SPLC. “They simply profiled him and presumed he was in this country unlawfully, solely based on his foreign birth, even though jail records showed that he had a valid social security number and Florida commercial driver’s license, neither of which he could have gotten unless he was lawfully in the U.S.”
Brooks’ attorneys said their client was held for an extra night in a “crowded jail” during the pandemic, which caused Brooks to test positive for COVID-19 after being taken to an emergency room five days after his false detainment.
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida and is seeking damages and injunctive and declaratory relief, according to WTSP. ACLU staff attorney My Khanh Ngo wrote in a statement that the “Supreme Court has made clear that local officials cannot make immigration arrests on their own, or treat people differently based solely on where they were born.”
“But that is what the Sheriff’s Office did here to Mr. Brooks,” Khanh Ngo’s statement continued. “They threatened to separate him from his family and his life in the U.S., just because he was born in Jamaica. And we know that Mr. Brooks’ case is just the tip of the iceberg.”
And maybe Woods’ inappropriate judgment call on Owens’ choice to confront the woman who allegedly attacked her children is also part of that iceberg.
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