Man at Center of ACLU Lawsuit Takes Plea Deal in Burglary Case

Agustin Ramon has been transferred to federal custody but ACLU attorney says group will continue to pursue case

By Justin Franz

A Eureka resident that the American Civil Liberties Union says was illegally detained in a Lincoln County jail was given a six-year suspended sentence stemming from a 2018 burglary.

Agustin Ramon pleaded guilty to a single charge of burglary in January and was sentenced earlier this month in Lincoln County District Court. According to an attorney with the ACLU, Ramon has since been transferred into federal custody and is in the process of being deported.

Ramon — who the ACLU says is a 32-year-old resident of Montana with dual citizenship in France and Mexico — was booked in the Lincoln County Jail on Aug. 3, 2018 on a burglary charge. When Ramon tried to pay his $25,000 bond, local law enforcement informed him that he would not be released because of an U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer.

An ICE detainer is a written request to a local jail or law enforcement agency to detain an individual for an additional 48 hours after his or her release date. The extra time allows immigration officials to decide whether to take the individual into federal custody to begin the process of removing the individual from the United States.

Attorneys for the ACLU say there is no legal requirement that local law enforcement comply with a request to hold someone. And even if there was, Ramon was held far beyond the 48-hour limit.

Attorneys for the ACLU, ACLU of Montana and the Border Crossing Law Firm, which filed the lawsuit in Lincoln County District Court on Oct. 31, 2018, argued that former Sheriff Roby Bowe was violating multiple articles of the Montana Constitution through the “unreasonable seizure” of Ramon. Attorneys state that Ramon, who has lived in Montana since April 2018, is protected by the state constitution. A Lincoln County judge rejected a preliminary injunction, and the case is now sitting before the Montana Supreme Court.

Alex Rate, ACLU of Montana legal director, said his group will continue to work on the case because Ramon is not the first person to have been illegally held.

According to charging documents, Ramon was arrested on Aug. 3 after his neighbor found him inside his bathroom allegedly looking for prescription drugs. The neighbor confronted Ramon and told him to leave. Ramon refused to leave until the man called 911. A Eureka Police Department officer responded to the scene and confronted Ramon at his house. Ramon said he had gone next door to offer his neighbor a grape soda. Ramon eventually admitted that he went inside looking for pills.