Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels and one of his deputies are named as defendants in a lawsuit filed by a Tolleson man who claims he suffered a fractured vertebra last year while being transported in a patrol vehicle.
Robert Frederick Haas was arrested in March 2018 near Douglas for transporting four undocumented immigrants for profit. He was also charged with driving on a suspended license and displaying a license plate stolen from a vehicle in Tempe.
Haas, 43, was handcuffed behind his back and placed in a Cochise County Sheriff’s Office vehicle by Deputy Arthur Estrada for transport to a nearby U.S. Border Patrol station. The lawsuit which seeks damages for past and future medical expenses, pain and suffering, and ongoing disability alleges Estrada became distracted during the trip and had to hit the brakes hard to avoid another vehicle.
This caused Haas, who was not restrained by a seatbelt, to slam into the divider behind the front seat before being propelled backward into the seat. His lower back impacted the handcuffs, resulting a fractured L5 vertebra, according to the lawsuit.
Haas also contends he complained of severe pain at the time, but Estrada’s report makes no mention of that, or of any out of the ordinary issue during the ride. The deputy’s report indicates he recorded the initial traffic stop but there appears to be no footage once Haas was placed in the patrol vehicle.
However, court records show USBP officials had Haas transported to the emergency department at Banner University Medical Center and he required further medical treatment in the weeks after his arrest. Haas has provided more than 200 pages of medical records to Cochise County officials.
The lawsuit alleges general negligence on the part of Estrada, who has been with the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office nearly 15 years. It also alleges negligent supervision and training by the Dannels, who previously rejected a $1 million demand to settle Haas’ claim without court action.
In his formal answer to the lawsuit, the sheriff denies that he or his deputy caused or are at fault for any injuries to Haas.
“The Defendants deny causing injury to Plaintiff,” the answer states. “The Defendants deny breaching any duties defined by law.”
A jury isn’t expected to hear the case until summer 2020.
Last year Haas admitted his role in shielding the four men in his vehicle from detection by immigration officials. In exchange, the U.S. Attorney’s Office offered a plea deal that resulted in a federal prison sentence of one year and one day.
Haas also pleaded guilty in a Cochise County court to two misdemeanors related to his suspended license and the stolen license plate.