Border Patrol Supervisors Back to Work

Affiliate: ACLU of New Mexico
January 22, 2009 12:00 am

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ACLU of New Mexico
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TUCSON, AZ — The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico today ended litigation against U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) authorities on behalf of two CBP agents. Supervisory Agents Juan Curbelo and William Leafstone, Jr. were returned to their regular positions this week and had all job privileges restored.

“We’re delighted our clients got the relief they wanted and deserved: full restoration of their job duties,” said Peter Simonson, executive director of the ACLU of New Mexico. “Agents Curbelo and Leafstone rightfully spoke up against stopping vehicles without reasonable suspicion. This lawsuit brought to light that the practice of ‘shotgunning traffic’ is clearly unconstitutional.”

In December 2006, Curbelo’s ex-wife, Concepcion Curbelo, and his children were stopped by a Border Patrol agent during a “shotgunning” patrol near Rodeo, New Mexico. The agent arrested Ms. Curbelo for allegedly possessing and trafficking marijuana, and took her to the Border Patrol station in Lordsburg. A short time later, agent Curbelo received a copy of the incident report regarding his ex-wife’s arrest. Both he and Agent Leafstone noted inconsistencies in the report that, they concluded, were intended to cover up the fact that Ms. Curbelo was stopped without reasonable suspicion. A federal judge in New Mexico agreed and suppressed the evidence against Ms. Curbelo.

Agent Curbelo reported his concerns to the Office of the Inspector General, in January 2007. Agent Leafstone testified at Ms. Curbelo’s hearing regarding the practice of “shotgunning traffic.” The Border Patrol subsequently removed their badges and placed on administrative duties. After initially receiving a notice that they might be terminated, the Agents ultimately received only minor disciplinary actions and then were fully restored to their jobs this week by their Chief.

The ACLU lawsuit was filed by Staff Attorney George Bach (ACLU-NM) and co-counsel Dan Pochoda (ACLU-AZ) on May 21, 2008 in U.S. District Court in Tucson, Arizona.

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