It all started in July 2013 when . . .
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent Jon Martinson, Jr. was assisting his fellow agents at an ICE facility, preparing detainees for transportation from a secure facility and deportation from the United States. One of the detainees became disruptive in a large holding cell, where he was being held with many other detainees.
The unruly detainee, Fabian Maldonado-Pineda*, was being deported from the U.S. following his sentencing for Reentry by a Deported Alien. Maldonado was deported from the U.S. in 2008 and then illegally reentered. ICE ordered him to be deported and he had been criminally charged with Reentry by a Previously-Deported Alien.
In the holding cell, Maldonado refused to respond to officer instructions, so Agent Martinson and other agents moved him to another cell to prevent him from becoming 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 a continued physical and verbal battle with Maldonado, 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 during the incident
For this simple and appropriate act that he had been trained to perform, in 2014 Agent 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 Agent Martinson’s counsel that the government’s indictment had misstated the applicable law. Judge Benson explained that prisoners like Maldonado are covered only under 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 handle 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.
Agent Martinson is a Utah native and proud veteran of the U.S. Air Force. As a Layton City, Utah police officer, he used the Post-9/11 GI Bill to obtain a bachelor’s degree and support his family. He has a stellar 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 length of Agent Martinson's criminal proceedings, Maldonado remained in the United States and has even been convicted of committing Fraud to Improperly Obtain Worker's Compensation Benefits. He also filed a civil suit against the United States, demanding U.S. taxpayers pay damages for his alleged mistreatment.
This case against a respected ICE detention officer is absurd. 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 Agent Martinson comes easily. LELDF stands with 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 Agent 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 Agent Martinson can go back to the important work he loves.
Agent Martinson 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.”
*We refer to him as “Maldonado”, although he used other names in the past, including Fabian Maldonado-Pined, Christian Romero, Fabian Pinedo, Jorge Avila, and Jorge Guadalupe.