Lawsuit claims deputies detained man for being foreign-born

Jan 20, 2022, 4:04 PM | Updated: 4:18 pm

OCALA, Fla. (AP) — A Florida man filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against a sheriff and his deputies, claiming he was illegally detained for no other reason than being born in Jamaica.

Neville Brooks was a lawful permanent U.S. resident when he was detained in central Florida in August 2020, his lawsuit said. It added that a federal immigration officer told multiple county employees that Brookes wasn’t subject to any immigration detention request, according to the suit against Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods and several deputies.

Brooks wasn’t released until the following day, and he was diagnosed with COVID-19 five days later, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit accuses the sheriff’s office of having a policy of detaining people merely because they were born outside the U.S. Brooks’ constitutional rights were violated and state law against false imprisonment also was violated, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit is seeking undisclosed financial damages and an order barring the sheriff’s office from detaining people for immigration enforcement merely because they are born outside the U.S.

Sgt. Paul Bloom said the sheriff’s office hadn’t yet been served with the lawsuit so he couldn’t comment on it. Bloom said in an email that the sheriff’s office is required by Florida law to use its “best efforts to support the enforcement of federal immigration law.”

“We will continue to do just that,” Bloom said.

Brooks, 59, was originally arrested on a charge of misdemeanor battery, which was later dismissed. The judge set bail for $100 at the man’s first appearance amid concern that Brooks could be exposed to COVID-19 in jail, the lawsuit said.

Family members posted the bail, but deputies at the jail never released him, according to the suit.

It said authorities told him that he was being held for federal immigration agents even though U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement never issued a detainer, administrative warrant, or any other request to hold Brooks.

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Lawsuit claims deputies detained man for being foreign-born