Defamation lawsuit filed against immigrant rights group
An attorney representing a Carbondale police officer has followed through on his pledge to file a defamation of character lawsuit against an immigrant rights group and its local representative.
Officer Alvaro Agon was the target of recent allegations by the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRC) and the group’s regional organizer, Brendan Greene, claiming he used racial profiling in his dual role as Carbondale’s school resource officer (SR0) and his previous work as a liaison with federal immigration enforcement officials.
Through press statements and followup media interviews, CIRC and Greene repeated “false allegations” about Agon, according to the lawsuit filed in Garfield District Court Wednesday by local attorney Tom Adgate on behalf of Agon.
In a Sept. 19 press release, the organization demanded that Agon be removed from the SRO position.
Greene, speaking for CIRC and a local student advocacy group, also said Agon should be suspended from his duties until allegations that he used his position to identify undocumented immigrants and turn them over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) could be investigated.
“CIRC and Brendan Greene knew, or should have known, that the defamatory statements about Officer Agon were false … [and] failed to investigate the truthfulness of the statements,” the lawsuit says.
“As a result … Officer Agon was defamed, and as a proximate cause of the defendant’s acts, his reputation in the community was severely damaged,” it says.
The lawsuit seeks damages to be determined by a jury, and to be reimbursed for attorney’s fees and costs.
CIRC, along with the local student organization Asociacion de Jovenes Unidos en Accion (AJUA), have criticized Agon’s previous dual role as an SRO and liaison with ICE.
The groups said they have statements from students in Carbondale schools and their families that Agon’s actions working with ICE to identifying possible criminal activity crossed the line into identifying undocumented immigrants.
Earlier this week, the Colorado chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) joined CIRC in calling on the Roaring Fork School District Re-1 to adopt a policy prohibiting SROs from working directly with ICE.
SROs are employees of local police departments and typically have numerous other police duties beyond their work in local schools. Re-1 does provide $15,000 each to the Carbondale, Glenwood Springs and Basalt police departments to help fund the SRO program.
Police chiefs from the three communities, in a press conference last week, said SROs are not in the business of immigration enforcement. Carbondale Police Chief Gene Schilling said CIRC’s allegations against Agon are “absolutely false.”
CIRC sponsored a community forum in Carbondale Thursday night to discuss the issue. Look for a report from that forum in Saturday’s Post Independent.
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