In July 2013, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agent Jon Martinson was assisting other agents at an ICE facility, preparing detainees for transportation from a secure facility and ultimate deportation from the country. One of the detainees became disruptive in a large holding cell with many other detainees.
The disruptive detainee, Fabian Maldonado-Pineda, was being deported from the U.S. following his sentencing for Reentry by a Deported Alien. (We will refer to him here as “Maldonado”, although he had used other names in the past, including Fabian Maldonado-Pined, Christian Romero, Fabian Pinedo, Jorge Avila, and Jorge Guadalupe). Maldonado was deported from the U.S. in 2008 and then illegally reentered. ICE had ordered him deported and he had been criminally charged with reentry by a previously-deported alien. Agent Martinson encountered Maldonado in a cell in an ICE detention facility as he was in the process of being transported back to Mexico.
In the holding cell, Maldonado refused to respond to officer instructions. So Agent Martinson and other agents decided to move him to another cell so that he would not become a disruptive and risky influence on the other detainees. After placing Maldonado in shackles, Martinson and other agents began transporting him to a different cell. Maldonado flexed his arms during the movement, and Agent Martinson repeatedly instructed him not to resist. Maldonado refused to comply. Faced with these continued refusals, Agent Martinson followed his training and used an authorized technique to put the detainee on the floor in a prone position. The detainee was then treated for a minor laceration he received while being put on the floor.
For this simple and appropriate act that he had been trained to perform, in 2014 Martinson was indicted for deprivation of rights under color of law for allegedly impeding an inmate’s right to be free from the use of unreasonable force by a law enforcement officer. As the case was about to go to trial, on July 9, 2015, federal judge Dee Benson dismissed the indictment, siding with Martinson’s counsel that the government’s indictment had misstated the law applicable to Agent Martinson’s action. Judge Benson explained that prisoners like Maldonado are covered only the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, not the constitutional rights of presumed-to-be-innocent citizens.
On September 23, 2015 – more than two years after Agent Martinson’s split-second decision about how to respond to a disruptive prisoner – the government obtained a new grand jury indictment, now charging Martinson with depriving Maldonado of the right not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment by the use of excessive force.
Jon Martinson is a Utah native and proud veteran of the U.S. Air Force. A former Layton City, Utah police officer, he used the GI Bill to obtain a bachelor’s degree and support his family. He has a record full of accomplishment and commendations and was widely regarded as a peacemaker.
By contrast, the “victim” in the case is a convicted felon who was illegally in the country after having been previously been deported. His resistance in this matter began with his complaint about when lunch would be served. A free lunch, courtesy of the U.S. taxpayer, which he believed he was entitled to at a time of his choosing while he was being again detained for his illegal presence in the country. During the pendency of these criminal proceedings, Maldonado has remained in the United States and has even been convicted of committing a fraud to improperly obtain workers compensation benefits. He has also filed a civil suit against the United States, asking the taxpayers to pay damages for his alleged mistreatment.
The absurdity of this case against a respected ICE detention officer is obvious. A man committed to the enforcement of U.S. law makes a split-second decision to control the resistance of a criminal illegal alien and finds himself charged in federal court by the very government that ought to consider the safety and security of Americans first! Maldonado has had a privileged existence in the United States. He’s taken full advantage of that privilege by being a repeated law-breaker yet he’s now again a protected guest while he awaits providing testimony that threatens to imprison a good American.
Our full support of IEA Jon Martinson comes easily. The LELDF will back him and his legal team to the finish!
UPDATE — July 2016, the U.S. Attorney’s Office that twice proposed and secured the indictment of Jon Martinson moved to dismiss the case as they didn’t intend to seek an indictment for the third time. Accordingly, a dedicated public servant’s battle with prosecutorial overreach by the very government he serves, has ended and Jon can go back to the important work he loves.
Jon offered the following message to LELDF supporters: “I am happy to see that the federal government has decided that it won’t try to prosecute me any more. I’ve been back at the job I love for several months now, and know I didn’t do anything wrong. I appreciate all the support that I’ve gotten from LELDF, which helped me prove my innocence. Especially nowadays, law enforcement officers need a voice like LELDF.”