Jury Orders Rancher to Pay Hunting Party

AP, Nov. 23, 2006

An anti-illegal immigration activist accused of threatening to shoot a Mexican-American family of hunters with an assault rifle and using racial slurs against them was ordered to pay them $98,000.

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Ronald Morales and his father, Arturo, were with his two young daughters and their friend when Barnett confronted them near his Douglas-area ranch and accused them of trespassing Oct. 30, 2004.

Morales’ lawsuit claims they were legally crossing land Barnett leases from the state. The Moraleses are U.S. citizens of Mexican descent.

Barnett, who claims to have detained more than 10,000 migrants in the last 10 years, denied threatening the hunting party. He testified that he only took out his AR-15 rifle because the adults in the group were carrying rifles.

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Barnett declined to comment, saying his lawyer advised him against speaking. His brother, Donald Barnett, expressed disappointment.

“In the Morales family, the father taught the son to trespass, and now the father’s teaching the daughters how to trespass in blatant disregard for the law,” said Donald Barnett, who was initially named in the suit but later dropped as a defendant. “I guess in this country, private property and a person’s rights don’t mean much any more.”

The lawsuit was sponsored by the Border Action Network and the Southern Poverty Law Center, civil rights groups that have accused Barnett of acting as a vigilante and abusing illegal immigrants he detains on his ranch.

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Morales said he asked the Cochise County Attorney to press criminal charges against Barnett, but was told no jury would convict him.

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