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Roosevelt County sued for jailing man too long

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Officials in Roosevelt County are facing a federal civil rights lawsuit after a 22-year-old single father claims he was held in jail for three weeks without any criminal charges.

A bench warrant was issued for Francisco Franco on June 14 in Portales for two alleged probation violations, one from an alleged domestic dispute and another from a possible positive drug test. However, court documents that accompany the lawsuit show that Franco’s probation ended in early March.

That means that the 21 days he spent in a county detention center between July 1 and 21 for alleged parole violations, according to attorney Eric Dixon, represented a violation of Franco’s constitutional rights.

During Franco’s three weeks in jail, he lost his construction job and endured other complications, Dixon said. Franco is the single father of a 5-month-old girl.

“If anybody had even bothered to look at the court file, or even gone online, they would have seen an order was filed,” Dixon said Wednesday.

Officials named in the lawsuit include Roosevelt County Manager Charlene Webb, jail administrator David Casanova and probation officer Tamara Peel. The County Commission is also named.

Calls to Webb were not returned Wednesday.

Franco was sentenced to a year of probation in 2012 after being convicted of a misdemeanor attempted breaking and entering charge and a petty misdemeanor criminal damage to property charge, according to court documents.

His probation was then ended March 7, according to the documents, but no one apparently bothered to tell Franco, who continued showing up for supervision and drug tests, Dixon said.

“Somebody tells him to show up, he shows up,” Dixon said.

Franco then possibly tested positive for cocaine during a June 5 drug screening, and police also arrived at a Portales home in response to a domestic dispute allegedly involving Franco and his brother. Both Franco and his brother were drunk when police arrived, according to a police report, and no one was arrested.

Both the positive drug test and the domestic dispute are grounds for revoking probation, so probation officer Peel, who had also signed off on his probation discharge, asked for a bench warrant to send Franco back to jail.

Franco was then arrested and the error was discovered during Franco’s arraignment three weeks later, according to court documents. Dixon soon after filed a federal damage claim, which he said went unanswered, and then a federal civil rights lawsuit.

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