Farmington denies officers violated cursing man's civil liberties

Steve Garrison The Daily Times
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — The city of Farmington filed a written response Friday to allegations that Farmington police officers violated the civil liberties of a man arrested for cursing loudly at a restaurant.

The allegations were made in a lawsuit filed in Aztec District Court on Jan. 9 by Tye Trujillo, who claims the city failed to properly train the three Farmington police officers who violated his right to free speech when they arrested him for disorderly conduct on June 11, 2013.

On March 20, the case was refiled in federal court.

In its response, the city said, in part, that it could not be held liable for damages for arresting Trujillo because probable cause existed for the arrest, and the city does not have a "de facto policy criminalizing protected speech."

The city demanded a trial by jury in the response.

Attorney David Roman of the Albuquerque law firm Robles, Rael & Anaya is representing the city in the lawsuit.

"We feel that the officer's actions were justified, and we look forward to the officers and the city being vindicated in court," he said.

According to a police report, Trujillo was at the IHOP location at 3546 E. Main St. with several friends shortly before midnight on June 11, 2013, when he allegedly used the word "f---" several times.

A couple with several small children was at the restaurant when the offensive language was used, the report states, as were three Farmington police officers — Dennis Ronk, Albert Boognl and Tamara Smith.

Ronk approached Trujillo and his friends, and told them that if he heard anyone use the word in question one more time, that person would go to jail.

Trujillo allegedly said the offensive word again, and the officers arrested him, the report states.

The city claims in its response that Trujillo loudly emphasized the word after being told to desist, and the word seemed to have the effect of provoking patrons of the restaurant.

Trujillo was cited under Farmington's municipal code for disorderly conduct and was found guilty of violating the city code in Farmington Municipal Court on April 10.

Trujillo's attorney in the case appealed the decision to district court on April 10, according to court records, and Judge Sandra Price determined on Aug. 15 that while there existed probable cause for the arrest, Trujillo's conduct was not disorderly.

According to court records, this is not the first lawsuit that has arisen from the arrest.

Trujillo previously filed a federal lawsuit against the three police officers, but not the city itself, in October 2013.

The parties almost reached a $10,000 cash settlement in that case in December 2013, according to court records, but the deal fell apart after a disagreement over whether Trujillo's disorderly conduct charge would be dismissed.

That lawsuit is still pending, according to court records.

Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and Follow him on Twitter @SteveGarrisonDT on Twitter.