Bluffton translator sues Hardeeville police for defamation after immigration case

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Bluffton translator sues Hardeeville police for defamation after immigration case

Published Monday, December 31, 2012   |  630 Words  |  

A Bluffton man who was accused of conning Latinos has filed a lawsuit against the Hardeeville Police Department, alleging the accusation was false and tarnished his reputation.

Hardeeville police arrested Henry Roldan last year on two misdemeanor charges of obtaining goods under false pretenses, saying he targeted undocumented immigrants by posing as a bail bondsman and then pocketed the cash they paid him to get their relatives out of jail.

Those charges were dropped in Hardeeville Municipal Court in November.

Roldan's lawsuit, filed Friday, says he was instead an "interpreter and facilitator" who helped connect Latinos with services including transportation, lawyers, medical providers, accountants and licensed bail bondsmen.

After Roldan's arrest, Hardeeville police stated in media interviews that Roldan may have tricked hundreds of undocumented immigrants out of as much as $100,000 over five years. The lawsuit said those interviews -- given to outlets including Savannah television news stations, three local newspapers and La Voz Latina -- communicated false statements to "at a minimum, the entire Lowcountry of South Carolina and Georgia."

The suit, filed by Roldan's attorney Hector Esquivel of the Jenkins & Esquivel law firm, said no evidence supports those claims. It also accuses arresting officer Lt. Arnold Middleton of having an ulterior motive for arresting Roldan.

Middleton, the suit states, "was engaged in a relationship with a local bail bonds person and caused criminal proceedings to be brought against Roldan for an ulterior motive because (Roldan) did not refer potential clients to the local bail bonds person."

Attempts Monday to reach Middleton and Hardeeville Police Chief Richard Nagy were unsuccessful. Nagy has stated in interviews that he stands by the integrity of the investigation.

Nagy also said a judge's ruling that the identity of Roldan's accusers must be publicly revealed was a factor when charges were dropped.

Roldan's lawsuit disputes the two charges he was arrested for and names both of the jail inmates whose relatives agreed to pursue charges against him in Hardeeville. At the time of Roldan's arrest in August 2011, his lawsuit states he was in the process of connecting a county inmate's mother with a bail bondsman to get her son out of jail.

The lawsuit also denies the second arrest warrant, which similarly accused Roldan of taking money from the mother of another inmate. Instead, Roldan was acting as an interpreter for the mother to communicate with a licensed bail bondsman who "did in fact secure the release of her son," the suit states.

In all, the lawsuit seeks damages for five actions: defamation, wrongful failure to train and supervise police officers, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution and abuse of process. It does not specify the amount sought.

It is unclear who is representing the Hardeeville Police Department. Court filings do not list an attorney. Attempts Monday to reach city manager Bob Nanni and city attorney David Tedder were unsuccessful.

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