Judicial Watch Argues Lawsuit on Behalf of Elian Gonzalez Supporters Harmed During Government Raid
Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced that it will argue its case today before the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta, GA on behalf of approximately 100 supporters of former Cuban refugee Elian Gonzalez who were harmed during a raid by government agents on Easter Sunday, April 22, 2000 (Donato Dalrymple, et al., vs. the United States of America, Appeal No. 05-14375-G). During the raid, which was ordered by Clinton officials, including Attorney General Janet Reno, agents of the then-INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) used “excessive and unreasonable force” against supporters of Elian, including spraying CS Gas — or tear gas — in direct violation of government policy.
“As a matter of Florida law, the question of whether the force used by law enforcement personnel was reasonable ‘is a question of fact to be determined in light of the circumstances of each particular case.’ In any case, the officer can never use more force than reasonably appears to be necessary, or subject the person arrested to unnecessary risk or harm,” Judicial Watch argued in its amended complaint. “[T]he INS’s use of CS gas against Plaintiffs during the raid was not objectively reasonable because the use of CS gas violated the INS’s own polices and procedures in effect at the time, as well as the INS’s Operational Plan for the raid.”
Judicial Watch and its plaintiffs — including Donato Dalrymple, the man who rescued Elian from an inner tube off the coast of Fort Lauderdale, Florida in November 1999 — filed suit for negligence, assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress. The United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida dismissed the lawsuit, prompting Judicial Watch’s appeal.
The raid by federal agents to retrieve Elian began as the Gonzalez family was finalizing an agreement with then-Attorney General Janet Reno that would have peacefully transferred custody of the boy to his father. Despite the family’s efforts to negotiate a peaceful resolution of their dispute with the government, more than 150 heavily armed federal agents descended on the Gonzalez family’s neighborhood. Six federal agents broke down the Gonzalez’s front door and held the family, its lawyers, and negotiators at gunpoint while they searched for and removed Elian from the home. Neighbors and peacefully assembled supporters were gassed, kicked, beaten, cursed, and held at gunpoint by federal agents. The Bush administration has consistently defended the raid in court.
“Judicial Watch remains committed to holding Clinton officials accountable for the brutal attack against those peacefully assembled outside the home of Elian Gonzalez,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.