Certified Criminal Law Specialist in Phoenix and Scottsdale, AZ
Mar
27

MCSO, actor Seagal sued over 2011 arrest

By

When a tank knocked down his block wall with a boom, waking him from a sound sleep, Jesus Llovera scrambled out of bed and grabbed his jeans and a phone to dial 911.

He made it to the hallway just as his bedroom windows shattered. At his door, members of a Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team in full riot gear told him to get on the floor.

slideshow Suspected cockfighting operation

He was handcuffed and taken outside, where action-movie actor Steven Seagal waited, clad in camouflage and sunglasses and hoisting a rifle.

“I looked up and saw his face,” Llovera said. “It was very strange.”

The SWAT team was at Llovera’s Laveen home the morning of March 10, 2011, to search it.

Deputies suspected that Llovera, who had pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor violation of being present at a cockfight, still had roosters and chickens on his property, a violation of his probation. They also suspected he was raising them to fight, a Class 5 felony.

But the Sheriff’s Office was also participating in the creation of a reality show, “Steven Seagal: Lawman,” a cable show that followed Seagal’s exploits as a deputized officer. Four cameras from the production company filmed the warrant execution and arrest. Arpaio’s office had alerted the media. Reporters and television cameras lined the southwest Phoenix neighborhood’s street.

This week, Llovera struck back. Llovera, 43, filed a civil lawsuit Tuesday against the Sheriff’s Office and Seagal, claiming his arrest was orchestrated to make for good television. He seeks unspecified monetary damages to be determined by a jury.

The suit, which also names the county Board of Supervisors, says it fit a pattern of Arpaio “arresting and prosecuting individuals without probable cause solely for the selfish and improper purposes of achieving personal and political gain through publicity.”

The Sheriff’s Office insists in court documents that the use of a tank, a bomb robot and 40 deputies was part of its normal course of duties.

“The search warrant was going to occur with or without Seagal,” sheriff’s Deputy Chief Dave Trombi said before the lawsuit was filed. “The search warrant was not based at all on the needs of the production company.”

After the raid, Llovera was criminally charged with raising animals for cockfighting and possession of dangerous drugs used on the animals. At the time, he was not supposed to have the animals in his possession because he was on probation for a cockfighting-related offense.

Robert Campos, Llovera’s attorney, has asked the court in the criminal case to throw out evidence discovered at Llovera’s home, arguing that the warrant was not served property.

Campos said his client was not involved with cockfighting, as authorities suspect. But, even if he were, the raid “was still overkill, and that’s the whole point.”

The Arizona-filmed episode of “Steven Seagal: Lawman” was to premiere on the A&E Network on Jan. 4, but the season was pulled from the schedule and the channel’s website.

At the time of his arrest, Llovera said, Seagal walked him off his property to a van but did not speak to him. Seagal went off to do media interviews. Show producers asked Llovera to sign a release allowing them to use footage of his arrest. Llovera said deputies removed his handcuffs twice as producers asked him to sign. He refused.

“They said, ‘It will be good for you, so everyone can see your animals,’ ” Llovera said. “I said I didn’t want to.”

Deputies found more than 100 roosters on the property. Court records say some had been physically altered in ways suggesting the birds had been bred for cockfighting. Since such birds are too aggressive to be rehabilitated, deputies said, they were euthanized.

Deputies also found medicines, charging Llovera with possession of dangerous drugs, and accessories, like sparring balls.

Deputies interviewed Llovera for 90 minutes, according to a prosecution filing in court.

“During that time, defendant equivocated between saying that the roosters were being raised solely for show purposes and then stating that he was raising the roosters so that they could be sold to people who would use them for cockfighting,” it said.

Llovera, during a recent tour of his home, told a reporter that he bred the birds to show their colorful plumage. But he did not know when the next rooster show was, or anything about competitions for rooster beauty or breeding.

He showed a copy of Gamecock magazine, saying he’s just like dealers who sell in that publication. The Humane Society calls the magazine a thinly disguised journal for cockfighting fans.

Llovera walked with a reporter through three rows of cages in his backyard for the 40 birds he owns.

To show his birds weren’t meant for fighting, Llovera put his hand into a cage. The rooster backed up. Had they been fighters, he said, they would be used to handling and could be easily approached.

He conceded he trimmed some birds’ wattles and combs, but only so the birds could place their heads through the bars of their cages to eat. He said a room authorities thought was a training ring is where he practices Santeria, a religion that includes animal sacrifice.

Llovera said he grew up a fan of cockfighting, watching battles in his native Cuba. He attended cockfights in Arizona when they were legal. Voters banned the practice in 1998.

“Those are traditions that you bring with you,” Llovera said, “and it was in Arizona. It was a tradition that was in Arizona.”

Llovera was one of 69 people arrested at a cockfight in Tonopah in May 2010. He pleaded guilty to being present at a fight and was given probation.

Phoenix police went to Llovera’s home in February 2011 to investigate a man’s claim that Llovera had kidnapped him and held him hostage for four days. Llovera told his own story of being kidnapped and having his pinky chopped off in the desert.

Confronted with differing stories, police didn’t pursue the kidnapping case. But they did send the information about the roosters on Llovera’s property to the Sheriff’s Office.

That resulted in the search warrant that led deputies, with Seagal in tow, to storm Llovera’s home. Trombi said the allegations against Llovera justified the sheriff’s use of force.

“When SWAT is requested, it’s based on previous history surrounding that suspect and that residence. Phoenix police did it with just as many if not more SWAT personnel as we did,” Trombi said. “We had a legitimate law-enforcement reason to be there, we had a legitimate document, a search warrant, signed by that judge to be at that property. And a year later, we’re still in the litigation phase. We’re not willing to back down from the charges the county attorney filed based on our investigation.”

Llovera said he’s frustrated thinking how much his life was upended by the bust. “At the end of it, I realized it was a show,” Llovera said. “What they showed up for was to make a show, and they made one.”

Categories : Blog

Comments are closed.

Robert J Campos News Videos

Testimonials

"I am writing to thank you for everything you have done for me. I also want to thank you for believing me. Everything I told you was the truth. I think you did a wonderful job. I couldn't of had a better lawyer." — Tisha

"I would like to thank you for all your support and effort you made for us. I know this was not an easy case. Thank you for believing in me even when there could have been a doubt….. Thank you for everything." — Rachel

“When Jeff called me to tell me of the deal you created for Donald [the client] I burst out with cries that [Jeff] thought was laughing with joy…. Well they were but accompanied with so much emotion and deep gratitude…” — Rebecca

Thank you for everything you have done for my brother Bo. I hope the next time we meet it will be in better circumstances. Take care and God bless you [and your secretary Lizet]. — Lydia

"I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate all that you’ve done for me. Don’t take this the wrong way, but I hope I never have to call you after this. But I know who to call if I do get into a bind…" — G.A.

"I would like to thank you and your faculty and let you know how much I appreciate all that you have done on my behalf… I never got to properly thank you for your advice and support. You did more than I expected and I wish you were still there. I hope one day I can repay you for services rendered. I thank you for your concern and I thank you for your time." — Sincerely, A.A

"I want to take this time to thank you for representing me and for doing such an outstanding job defending me. Words can't express how relieved and gratefull I was to you and the Lord above when I heard the good news. You have restored my faith in the law and proved that there are good people who care. I promise I will be more careful in the future and when I meet anyone who needs a good attorney, I will gladly recommend you" — Alfredo

"I’ll start this letter by first letting you know that I was very impressed by your performances in court. I want to thank you very much for a job well done… May your continued success to help others in such situations as mine to not only get them out of jail or prison, but to let them go back to their families and their lives back on track. Once again, job well done and God bless you and your family." — Rene

You’ve made me look forward to the future years of my life with much more enthusiasm. Thank you so, so, much for all of your hard work. — Donald

"Midpoint on probation and my P.O. put me in for early release. Reflecting back over the past years I especially want to thank you for working so hard to give me my life back. So, thank you Robert -- a day does not pass without me thanking God for you --" — Jeff

"We give thanks to you for the battle you fought for Woody and me. You have given us our future together back and are responsible for the good we are able to do. Thank you and God bless you for your friendship and talent." — D. and W

I just wanted to take this time to thank you for all you have done for us. It will all work out for the best in the end — Sam & Raychal

"I want to thank you for everything you did for me. You are the best lawyer that I know. Thank you for convicing the State that I was not the suspect. My birthday [was] on the [date] the case was dismissed...so thank you for giving me the best birthday gift that I ever got. — Raymond

"Siempre te llevare en mi corazon. Eres muy especial para mi. Que Dios te bendiga" — Sandra

"Just wanted to say how much Janet and I appreciated you help representing Nick recently. I selected someone I knew was an excellent attorney I could trust and believe in. Thanks for your help." — Hector & Janet

"I'll start this letter by first letting you know that I was very impressed by your performance in court. I want to thank you for a job well done. May you have continued success to help others in such situations as mine to not only to get them out of jail or prison but to let them go back to their families and get their lives back on track. Once again, job well done and God Bless you and your family." — Rene

"I want to let you know how very grateful I am to you for holding me up, keeping me going and pushing for me when I couldn't. You put up with a lot from me during the past months. I couldn't and wouldn't have been able to carry through with the trial had it not been for your support and caring. You are a true friend, and I will always think of you that way." — Erma

"Thank you again for taking care of my case, you did a GREAT JOB!" — Sincerely, S.L.

You really made a difference—and you truly are appreciated. Thank you very much! — Steve

"I know you now know that this is the most devastating experience I have ever found myself in. Being found "Not Guilty" on all counts in both the criminal and civil cases, was the most profound experience of my life. I will never forget that Friday evening and how it felt to have the weight of the world finally lifted from my shoulders. I consider myself very fortunate to have selected you to represent me and hope you will accept my thanks again as genuine and heartfelt" — Gerry

Contact Us

Robert J. Campos & Associates

51 East Lexington Avenue

Phoenix, Arizona 85012

Phone: (602) 222-3440

Fax: (602) 595-9683

Email: info@robertjcampos.com