ALAMANCE COUNTY, N.C. — A judge dismissed a federal lawsuit accusing Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson of discriminating against Hispanics.
The Department of Justice claimed that Johnson’s office practiced discriminatory policing and unconstitutional searches by targeting Latino drivers. The judge ruled in Johnson’s favor.
The trial began last year, four years after an investigation was launched into the claims.
The lawsuit claimed the department encouraged a number of discriminatory policing practices and that Latino drivers were racially profiled and often stopped without reason.
Judge Thomas D. Schroeder’s decision was received by Sheriff Johnson’s legal staff on Friday.
In part, the judgment reads that “it is therefore ordered and adjudged that the claims of the United States be denied, and that Judgment be entered for Defendant Sheriff Johnson, and that the complaint be dismissed with prejudice.”
In his conclusion, Judge Schroeder wrote, “The Government’s case rested largely on vague, isolated statements attributed to Sheriff Johnson and on statistical analyses. Yet, not a single person testified that any ACSO employee carried out any alleged improper directive or otherwise violated any individual’s constitutional rights.”
In a press conference Monday, Sheriff Johnson thanked his supporters and said his department would continue outreach in Hispanic communities.
“I want to build a relationship with every individual, regardless of their nationality, party affiliation, short tall fat or small, I want to have a good working relationship and I want to represent every person in this county equally,” Johnson said.
The ACLU of NC sent out a press release saying the decision “flies in the face of a mountain of evidence that Sheriff Johnson and the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office engaged in discriminatory policing.”
ACLU Staff Attorney Carolyna Manrique believes the DOJ should appeal.
“This sends the wrong message to communities that law enforcement departments across the nation and here in North Carolina can basically discriminate with impunity. And we don’t think that should continue to happen, and we support the DOJ in appealing,” Manrique said.
Johnson’s attorneys were given 30 days to file for the costs of the trial; they plan to do so. They did not have an estimate of costs yet but it will ultimately be up to the Judge to decide.