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ACLU Sues DEA, CBI for Illegal Armed Home Invasion, False Imprisonment

February 20, 2002

The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Colorado (ACLU) filed suit today alleging that agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) violated the constitutional rights of a Pueblo family by conducting an illegal SWAT-type raid on the family's home with no warrant or other legal authority.

The lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of Dan and Rosa Unis and their two college-aged sons, states that on August 19, 2000, the family was peacefuly enjoying the privacy of their home when "black-masked, black-helmeted men brandishing automatic weaons and wearing all-black uniforms with no insignias suddenly burst into the house unannounced, kicked the family's dog across the floor, ordered the entire family to 'get on the fucking floor,' held them at gunpoint, searched the house, found no drugs or contraband, but nevertheless carted off the family's two sons, Dave and Marcos, and imprisoned them illegally and without charges."

The lawsuit states that the young men, age 19 and 22 at the time, spent two days in jail and then were released — without charges, explanation, or apology.

"Once again the War on Drugs misses the target and instead scores a direct hit on the Constitution," said Mark Silverstein, ACLU Legal Director. "These government agents had no search warrant, no arrest warrant, and no lawful authority whatsoever. They carried out this armed home invasion in flagrant disregard of the Fourth Amendment, which forbids unreasonable searches and arrests without probable cause."

According to the lawsuit, DEA agent Dave Saunders told the Unis family that CBI agent Pat A. Crouch was "in charge of this operation," which the ACLU says was carried out by the Southern Colorado Drug Task Force, a multi-jurisdictional agency composed of officers from the Pueblo Police Department and the Pueblo Sheriff's Department as well as the CBI and the DEA. The Defendants in the lawsuit include Crouch and Saunders as well as several as-yet-unidentified officers of unknown law enforcement agencies.

The suit, Unis v. Crouch, was filed in United States District Court in Denver.

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