PHOENIX - A chicken farmer claims actor Steven Seagal and dozens of Sheriff Joe Arpaio's officers blasted through his gated driveway with a tank to arrest him on camera for Seagal's TV show, "Steven Seagal: Lawman," though he had been cleared of cockfighting allegations a month before by the Phoenix Police Department.
Jesus Sanchez Llovera claims in County Court that on March 9, 2011, Sheriff Arpaio's tactical operations unit, Seagal and his producers "laid siege" to Llovera "under the guise of a cockfighting investigation."
Llovera claims the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office "used a Lenco Bear armored truck to smash through a gated driveway on the north end of Mr. Llovera's property. Seagal's producers and cameramen joined MCSO deputies in the Lenco Bear armored truck."
The complaint continues: "A V-150 tank pulverized a 30-foot iron gate on the south end of Mr. Llovera's property. Seagal joined MCSO deputies in the V-150 tank and was armed with an automatic assault rifle, along with a sidearm. Seagal's producers attached a stationary camera inside the V-150 tank.
"At least 30 armored MCSO Tactical Operations Unit personnel rushed Mr. Llovera's home. Each officer was outfitted in full riot gear consisting of shoulder pads, steel plates on their chest and back, a Kevlar helmet, goggles, ear and eye protection and a shield. Every officer also carried a weapon, either a Kimber .45 caliber handgun or an M4 Colt Commando fully automatic rifle.
Ear-crushing diversionary bombs were deployed by deputies as they exited the V-150 tank. Mr. Llovera's peacocks, guineas, dogs, sheep, goats, roosters, hens and chicks ran for cover. Seven K-9 units swarmed Mr. Llovera's property while the MCSO bomb robot led the search for Mr. Llovera - an unarmed chicken farmer.
"The MSCO Tactical Operation Unit's entry team smashed the front door of Mr. Llovera's home with a door ram. The 'window' team entered Mr. Llovera's home by shattering a picture window in the living room, as well as a window in Mr. Llovera's seven-year-old daughter's room. The 'rake and break' team stood by ready to cut the power supply to Mr. Llovera's home. MCSO deputies announced their presence over a loudspeaker after deputies were inside Mr. Llovera's home. Seagal's production company captured the drama as it unfolded, from various cameras positioned outside of Mr. Llovera's home, and inside the V-150 tank and Lenco Bear armored truck.
"MCSO deputies found Mr. Llovera inside his home - alone and unarmed - dialing 911 on his cell phone. Mr. Llovera had just awoken from his nap to find his home demolished and fully armed MCSO deputies pointing guns at his face. Mr. Llovera did not resist arrest and was fully cooperative with MCSO deputies.
"MCSO deputies hauled Mr. Llovera from his home and strategically pulled him to an open area in his front yard where deputies placed zip-tie cuffs on his wrists, fully within the view of Seagal's cameras.
"Mr. Llovera was escorted across the street from his home. Still clearly dazed and confused, Seagal's producers badgered Mr. Llovera to sign a release form so that they could enter his property and capture footage for 'Lawman.' Mr. Llovera refused to sign the release form.
"MCSO's criminal 'investigation' was nothing more than a ministerial exercise to carry out a foregone conclusion. Arpaio wanted to subject Mr. Llovera to a very public and humiliating arrest in front of Seagal's cameras, even though he knew that Mr. Llovera had not violated any criminal statutes.
"Nevertheless, Arpaio launched a high-profile criminal investigation and executed a full-scale military attack (including tanks, diversionary bombs, guns and an aging and overweight action 'hero') on Mr. Llovera's home. The press attention was far too attractive for Arpaio to pass up, despite the glaring problems with the case. Within minutes of the raid's execution, a media helicopter circled above Mr. Llovera's home."
Llovera claims that Arpaio's team had put a GPS tracking device on his vehicle, without obtaining a warrant to do so, and "monitored his [Llovera's] every movement in the days preceding the raid." He claims they knew he was home alone on the day of the raid, and posed no threat.
"MCSO deputies bragged that MCSO could have used the GPS tracking device to arrest Mr. Llovera during a traffic stop, thereby eliminating all need for the massive raid of his home," the complaint states. "A routine traffic stop, however, would not have provided sensationalized footage for 'Lawman's' producers. Arpaio scheduled a press conference to publicly announce Mr. Llovera's arrest. The arrest was publicly staged in an effort to give Arpaio even more self-serving press attention and to feed his undying mania for publicity."
Llovera claims in his complaint that in February 2011, the Phoenix Police Department came to his home to investigate allegations that he was running a cockfighting operation and "did not find any evidence of criminal wrongdoing." He adds that the Phoenix police "communicated with MCSO" during the Feb. 4, 2011 police search, and that he "was cleared of any and all alleged wrongdoing."
And, the complaint states, "the Phoenix Police Department provided MCSO with photographs taken at Mr. Llovera's home during the February 4, 2011 search. The photographs depicted healthy roosters and hens. The photographs did not illustrate any evidence of cockfighting or an active cockfighting operation at Mr. Llovera's home."
Nonetheless, Llovera claims, after his raid less than 5 weeks later, Arpaio held a press conference outside Llovera's house, portraying himself as "a champion of animal rights."
Llovera claims Arpaio's deputies "slaughtered over 100 Mr. Llovera's roosters in the back yard. Arpaio's deputies also joked about how Mr. Llovera's animals fled in terror during the raid." He adds: "Arpaio proclaimed that Mr. Llovera was arrested on over one hundred counts of cockfighting and falsely claimed that MCSO had found evidence of cockfighting on Mr. Llovera's property." Llovera claims that Arpaio, "using his political power and influence pushed the Maricopa County Attorney's Office to prosecute the case."
He adds: "Although MSCO arrested Mr. Llovera on over one hundred counts of cockfighting, the Maricopa County Attorney's Office presented only one count of cockfighting to the grand jury. Arpaio's ulterior motives in investigating, pressuring and forcing the prosecution of Mr. Llovera had to do with the political and financial gain the publicity of the case generated."
Llovera says he suffered lost earnings, humiliation, anguish and mental suffering, $30,000 in legal fees, thousands of dollars in damage to his home, and the slaughter of his animals. He seeks punitive damages for conspiracy, malicious prosecution, false arrest and abuse of process. He is represented by Robert Campos.
Named as defendants are Maricopa County; Maricopa County Sheriff's Office; Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio; Steven Seagal; Maricopa County Board of Supervisors; Supervisor Fulton Brock; Supervisor Don Stapley; Supervisor Andrew Kunasek; Supervisor Max Wilson; and Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox.