Border

Feb 7, 2011 4:57 PM

Rancher loses appeal for assault claims from illegal immigrants

TUCSON - A Cochise County rancher found liable on eight civil claims after he allegedly held a group of illegal immigrant at gunpoint and threatened them has been denied an appeal to overturn the verdicts against him.

Roger Barnett, 66, was ordered to pay more than $70,000 in damages in February 2009, after a jury found him guilty of four counts of assault against illegal immigrants - he allegedly pointed his gun at them, causing them "severe emotional distress," the jury found.

In 2004, Barnett came upon a group of 16 illegal immigrants - they claim he unlawfully detained them at gunpoint and threatened them. Barnett's defense lawyer says that he did so out of self-defense.

"The testimony showed Roger had been told by federal agents his life was in danger from the drug cartels," said his attorney, David Hardy. "He's outnumbered 20-to-1 in the desert, he doesn't know if they're smugglers or not."

In the rejection of his appeal, the three 9th Circuit Court of Appeals judges argued that because Barnett admitted that no one in the group was armed, a self-defense claim could not be considered.

"(Barnett) himself conceded on the stand, however, that none of the plaintiffs were armed or threatened him in any other way," the appellate judges wrote. That, they said, makes any claim of self-defense unwarranted.

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