Teller County Sheriff Jason Mikesell is willing to fight an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit against him in order to protect his community.
Leonardo Canseco, 44, is charged with two misdemeanor crimes that allegedly took place inside a Cripple Creek casino two weeks ago.
Canseco was arrested by gaming police. According to the lawsuit, Mikesell is refusing to let Canseco go once he posts his $800 bond due to a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer request.
The ACLU said Canseco sat down at what happened to be a reserved slot machine that still had money on it and played.
“Mr. Canseco is in jail because of $8.25 which he was willing to pay once he learned he had played with someone else’s money,” ACLU Legal Director Mark Silverstein said.
The ACLU said the sheriff has no authority to enforce federal law, and is infringing on Canseco’s constitutional rights and state law.
“A sheriff’s power of arrest is limited to arrest for crimes under Colorado law, and being removable from the country is not a crime under federal or Colorado law,” Silverstein said.
Mikesell said he won’t be bullied by the union. The sheriff would not comment specifically on Canseco, but said he is doing his job in holding people who have committed serious crimes.
“These are not people that you want as your neighbors,” Mikesell said. “These detainees have committed crimes in my community and the United States such as sexual assault, drug manufacturing and attempted homicides.”
The ACLU said Canseco’s misdemeanors are not violent crimes. They are also confident the judge will rule in their favor after suing El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder in February under similar circumstances.
Mikesell has received support from Woodland Park Police and ICE.
“ICE fully supports Teller County as it has supported ICE,” Denver Field Office Director Jeffrey Lynch said in a statement. “ICE is hopeful that the county is ultimately successful in its defense against the ACLU lawsuit. The overall safety of our local Colorado communities depends upon it.”
Back in March, a state district court judge ruled in ACLU’s favor, ordering Elder to stop relying on ICE immigration detainers and release inmates who posted bond.
“The issue is not just one inmate,” Mikesell said. “This is an issue around the nation, and it impacts our community.”
The court hearing on this current lawsuit will take place August 15 in Colorado Springs.