ACLU of New Mexico Sues DEA, Police Officers for Roughing Up Amtrak Passengers

Affiliate: ACLU of New Mexico
August 21, 2006 12:00 am

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ACLU of New Mexico
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ALBUQUERQUE – The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico filed a lawsuit today against a federal drug enforcement agent and two police officers who illegally searched and roughed up an Armenian couple last summer while their Amtrak train was stopped in Albuquerque. Today’s lawsuit seeks multiple violations of the civil rights of both individuals.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Diana Arutinova and her partner, Edgar Manukian. According to legal papers, the DEA agent pulled bras and underwear from a personal bag belonging to Arutinova during the search and made coarse jokes to the police officers. She and her partner told the three agents they had nothing illegal in their bags and to stop searching but the officers ignored their wishes.

“This was a gross abuse of power,” said ACLU of New Mexico Executive Director Peter Simonson. “The agents had Diana Arutinova and Edgar Manukian at their mercy and they used the opportunity to entertain themselves and to terrorize the couple.”

In legal papers, the ACLU describes how things went from bad to worse after the illegal search. Manukian asked the officers for their names and badge numbers. Agent Jay Perry pushed Manukian toward the train door and said, “You want my name? What are you gonna do about it, —hole?”

Fearing for her partner’s safety, Arutinova stepped between the two men, but Perry grabbed her roughly by the arm and shook her so hard that her head struck the wall. Perry then dragged Arutinova by her arm back down the hall toward the couple’s roomette, striking her head against the wall two or three more times. He stopped only when Arutinova began to scream.

Manukian took photos of the departing agents, but when one officer noticed the camera the agents returned. Perry grabbed Manukian’s arm and yelled, “What the hell are you doing taking pictures of us? Give me that camera!” The agents seized the camera and walked away.

“Clearly the officers were trying to cover their tracks by seizing the camera. The act was as cowardly as it was illegal,” said Simonson.

Zachary Ives and Martha Mulvany of Freidman, Boyd, Daniel, Hollander and Goldberg, PA are litigating the case for the ACLU along with ACLU staff attorney George Bach and ACLU Legal Director Phil Davis. The case was filed in federal district court.

The counts against the officers include retaliation for protected speech, excessive use of force and unreasonable search and seizure. The ACLU is seeking compensatory and punitive damages on behalf of the couple

The complaint in the lawsuit filed today is online at:

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