Judge Grants Ex-Hobbs Resident $580,000 Over Rights Violation

 ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — A federal jury has awarded $580,000 to a former Hobbs resident who said two Hobbs police officers violated his civil rights following a 1996 traffic stop.

The jury found that Hobbs police officer Rodney Porter and former Sgt. Walter Roye conducted an illegal search of Jimmie Marshall, a 58-year-old electrician now living in Ruidoso. The jury found the officers illegally took a blood sample from Marshall when they failed to obtain his permission or get a warrant following the Dec. 26, 1996, traffic stop.

The jury disagreed with Marshall's claim that his equal-protection rights were violated by the traffic stop that he said was racially motivated.

Marshall claimed Porter tried to stop him only after determining that Marshall was black and then used a racial slur during the arrest. Porter denied the claims.

The case is the latest in a series of lawsuits and complaints alleging Hobbs police officers have discriminated against black residents since an October 1996 disturbance between police and black residents at a Hobbs High School homecoming football game.

"The verdict goes a long way in showing none of the actions taken by the officers were race-based, and that was a major part of the claim and has to be seen as a major victory for the officers of the city," said Tony Knott, former Hobbs police chief and member of the state Gaming Control Board.All claims against

Knott were dismissed last week. He was second-in-command of the Hobbs Police Department at the time of Marshall's stop.

Porter and Roye said Marshall agreed to provide a blood sample for drug testing but refused to give permission in writing. Marshall passed two breath tests to determine if he had an illegal amount of alcohol in his system.

Porter said that when he tried to stop Marshall for not heeding a stop sign, Marshall drove away at speeds of up to 100 mph until stopping at his home two miles away.

Porter said he found a marijuana bud in Marshall's truck; Marshall denied that.

A blood test found a trace amount of marijuana.

The district attorney's office in Lea County declined to prosecute Marshall on charges of possession of a controlled substance, resisting or evading an officer, negligent use of a firearm and three traffic counts.

The jury awarded Marshall $390,000 in compensatory and punitive damages for Porter's actions, and $190,000 in compensatory and punitive damages for Roye's actions.

Published: Wednesday, August 25, 2004

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