Look out, Lloyd Kelley and the Ibarra brothers are suing the Sheriff's Office again, this time alleging that the HCSO retaliates against people who file complaints against it.
"There is a pattern and a practice of abusing civil rights and basically terrorizing people who have filed complaints," Kelley said shortly after filing the suit against Sheriff Tommy Thomas and the county. "The basic remedy is for a federal judge to put the sheriff's department under a court ordered decree and basically take it over."
Kelley, who also asks for unspecified punitive damages, alleges that in addition to the Ibarras, the Sheriff's Office has retaliated against April Walker, a law professor and part-time municipal court judge, who was arrested early on New Year's Day on charges of impersonating a public official.
The charges were dismissed two days later, but Walker claims that her superiors at Texas Southern University have been pressured to get her to drop her complaint against the deputies who arrested her, or else she would face new charges.
Walker received a subpoena May 21 to appear next month before a grand jury that claims to be investigating her conduct in spite of the dismissal of the charges. The subpoena is signed by Assistant District Attorney Joe Owmby, who also headed and closed without action his department's investigation into the Ibarras' complaint. Owmby could not be reached for comment.
"The state cannot use a subpoena to retaliate," Kelley said. "This fits in with a pattern of retaliating against people who file complaints."
Thomas declined to comment in person. A spokesman for the Sheriff's Office said all the incidents were investigated in accordance with department procedures. He would not discuss any of them individually.
The impersonation charges against Walker were dismissed at the first court hearing on Jan. 3, but she was so incensed by the actions of the deputies that she filed a complaint with the Sheriff's Office. In early May, she said, a colleague informed her that he had been told if she did not drop the complaint, the District Attorney's Office would seek to indict her for assault on a police officer.
"If I had done something wrong, I would have stood up and acknowledged it," Walker said Thursday. "I don't want to do this. This is not fun. I don't like this, the attention. I'm a very private person. But this has to stop."
Business owner Lloyd Henderson and his wife, Loretta, also are plaintiffs. He filed a complaint with the Sheriff's Office after a deputy handcuffed him and threw him on the ground on Oct. 19, 2007. Henderson had called the department after someone broke into his store. He was not taken to jail.
The lawsuit claims that when the Hendersons later complained of their treatment they "were harassed and an attempt was made to intimidate them."