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DOJ calls for quick ruling in discrimination case against Alamance Co. sheriff

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The United States Department of Justice is asking a federal court to make a quick ruling to stop the Alamance County Sheriff's Office from discriminating against Hispanic residents.

The DOJ filed a federal lawsuit in December against Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson after two studies showed that the sheriff's office was six times more likely to cite Hispanic drivers than non-Hispanic drivers. 

Two university professors hired by the DOJ to analyze traffic stops by the Alamance County Sheriff's Office said statistical data conclusively shows deputies are racially profiling Hispanic drivers.

On Monday, the department filed for a summary judgment, saying there is enough evidence to show that Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson unfairly targets Latino drivers and that a trial is not needed.

The DOJ claims that Sheriff Terry Johnson ordered his officers to "go get them Mexicans" and "arrest Hispanics" during traffic stops, and "lock up any damn Mexicans that you can" during vehicle checkpoints.

"In short, the undisputed evidence shows that ACSO [Alamance County Sheriff's Officer] intends to target Latinos for traffic enforcement and subjects them to this enforcement at a profoundly disproportionate rate," the brief says. "These facts establish that ACSO violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14h Amendment."

The DOJ even points to a specific incident during which Johnson admitted to ordering an investigation of an Alamance County employee based on her ethnicity.

"Told that there might be a county employee committing document fraud, Sheriff Johnson examined a list of employees and singled out an individual for investigation solely because he judged her name to be Latino," the brief says. "Sheriff Johnson explained, 'It's not hard -- you know, how the Latino community's last name is used, it was not hard to figure it out.'"

Johnson's attorney, however, said the allegations are not true, saying the sheriff is sympathetic to minorities because he is of Cherokee descent.

"He does not believe in discrimination. He is very sensitive because he is a minority himself," attorney Chuck Kitchen said.

The DOJ also said an Alamance County captain sent his "his subordinates a video game premised on shooting Mexican children, pregnant women, and other 'wetbacks.'"

A court date is set for July, but the DOJ wants the Sheriff's Office to comply with its requests immediately.


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