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Romero-Hernandez v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, D. Columbia

October 28, 2015

MARILU ROMERO-HERNANDEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et. al, Defendant

          For Marilu Romero-Hernandez, Plaintiff: Laura E. Varela-Addeo, LEAD ATTORNEY, THE LAW OFFICES OF GARY M. GILBERT & ASSOCIATES, Silver Spring, MD USA; Lauren Cole Daniel, LEAD ATTORNEY, S. Zachary Fayne, John Arak Freedman, ARNOLD & PORTER LLP, Washington, DC USA.

         For District of Columbia, Defendant: Joseph Alfonso Gonzalez, LEAD ATTORNEY, OFFICE OF ATTORNEY GENERAL/DC, Washington, DC USA; Portia M. Roundtree, LEAD ATTORNEY, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Washington, DC USA.

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         MEMORANDUM OPINION

         TANYA S. CHUTKAN, J.

         Before the court is Plaintiff's Motion for U Visa Certification. Upon consideration of the motion, Defendant District of Columbia's opposition thereto, and Plaintiff's reply in support thereof, and for the following reasons, the motion is DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff's motion arises from a now-settled civil suit relating to a November 22, 2012 altercation between patrons at Sabor Latino Bar and Grill in Washington, D.C. that resulted in police being called to the restaurant. Plaintiff alleges that District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department (" MPD" ) Officer Joshua Arana-Jimenez hit her in the face, knocking her to the ground, then pinned her down and punched her repeatedly in the face with a closed fist. (Mem. of Law in Supp. of Pl.'s Mot. for U Visa Certification, May 1, 2015 (" Mot." ) at 4-5). Plaintiff also alleges that, thereafter, several MPD officers removed her from the restaurant, and in the process " slammed" her head against both a door and a window. ( Id. at 5-6). Plaintiff claims that she suffered severe bodily harm and psychological injuries as a result of these actions ( id. at 6-7), which she claims constituted felonious assault and deprivation

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of constitutional rights under color of law in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 242 ( id. at 12-15). The District disputes Plaintiff's version of events. (Def.'s Opp'n to Pl.'s Mot. for U Visa Certification, May 20, 2015 (" Opp." ) at 8).

         In November 2013, Plaintiff filed her underlying civil lawsuit against the District, eight named MPD officers, ten unknown MPD officers, and GC Latin Productions, which operates Sabor Latino Bar and Grill. In October 2014, Plaintiff amended her complaint, adding a named MPD officer. Plaintiff's amended complaint alleged the deprivation of her constitutional rights under color of law in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 based on the MPD officers' use of excessive force in violation of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments. (Am. Compl. ¶ ¶ 51-66). Plaintiff also brought common law claims of assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent supervision. ( Id. ¶ ¶ 67-86).

         Before any dispositive motions were filed in the civil litigation, the parties settled and voluntarily dismissed the case.

         There is no existing criminal case relating to the November 22, 2012 incident (the " Incident" ). While Plaintiff was initially charged with misdemeanor assault on a police officer, that charge was dismissed in June 2013 after she complied with the conditions of a deferred prosecution agreement. (Opp. Ex. 1).

         No MPD officers have been charged with any crime or infraction arising out of the Incident. In December 2013, the Civil Rights Unit of the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia stated that, after considering " the facts and circumstances surrounding the alleged misconduct" by Officer Arana-Jimenez and two other MPD officers named as defendants in Plaintiff's civil suit, it had " decided to decline criminal prosecution of [those] officers or any other officer" for the roles they played in the Incident. ( Id. Ex. 2).

         An MPD Internal Affairs Investigative Report concerning the alleged use of force by Officer Arana-Jimenez and another MPD officer during the Incident also states, under the heading " INVOLVED SUBJECT STATEMENT(S)," that Plaintiff had retained legal counsel, made public her intent to pursue civil litigation and " declined to be interviewed." ( Id. Ex. 3). Plaintiff claims that neither she nor her counsel were ever contacted by MPD Internal Affairs to participate in an interview, and therefore reads the Investigative Report to mean that " Internal Affairs assumed that because Plaintiff filed this civil lawsuit, she would not cooperate with the investigation." (Pl.'s Reply to Def.'s Opp'n to Pl.'s Mot. for U Visa Certification, May 28, 2015 (" Reply" ) at 4-5). Plaintiff also notes that,

to the extent MPD sought to contact [her] prior to this civil lawsuit, it is entirely understandable that [she] may have been hesitant to cooperate in an investigation performed by the very same entity whose officers had violently assaulted her and then charged her with a crime, ...

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