Police Claim Legitimate Arrest; Woman Clams Racial Profiling - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Police Claim Legitimate Arrest; Woman Clams Racial Profiling

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Juana Villegas Juana Villegas
Attorney Elliot Ozment Attorney Elliot Ozment

NASHVILLE, Tenn.- According to police, a Nashville woman, nine months pregnant was arrested, handcuffed, and thrown in jail for a week for not having a driver's license. However, the woman said it's because she is Hispanic.

Juana Villegas's July 3rd traffic stop is launching a fire-storm of controversy.

Her supporters want to know why an officer from Berry Hill took her to jail instead of simply writing a citation.

Berry Hill Police Department insists it followed procedure even if those on Villegas's side aren't convinced.

Juana Villegas,33 is a wife and a mother of four, but she is also am illegal immigrant, lawbreaker., and according to her supporters, a victim.

"We're not going to let this pass without somebody being held accountable," said Nashville attorney Elliot Ozment.

Ozment is an attorney for the immigrant community, and he takes issue with the Berry Hill officer who took Villegas to jail. With the 287-G program, law enforcement officials flag offenders who are in the country illegally.

Ozment urges Davidson County Sheriff, Darron Hall, to use some discretion.

"It's one thing to treat a serious criminal in the way that he wants to treat certain people that are brought into his jail. But it's quite another thing to treat people that have done nothing more than drive their kids to school, or to the grocery, without a driver's license, and treat them in the way that his jail treated this lady," said Ozment.

Villegas was charged with driving without a license and careless driving. During the traffic stop along Bransford Avenue in South Nashville Villegas was able to produce a valid vehicle registration and consulate photo identification:  two documents that should have averted an arrest.

Gregg Ramos:  "She should have received a simple, written citation instead of being physically arrested and brought down to the jail," said attorney ad advocate, Gregg Ramos.

Furthermore, Villegas was rushed to Metro General Hospital to deliver her child, but remained handcuffed up until two hours prior to delivery and six hours after.

"When I was in bed, I was begging the sheriff, 'Please, let me free. At least one hand, because I wanted...' And he say, 'No.' He didn't want to," said Villegas.

A spokeswoman for the sheriff confirmed Juana Villegas was deported and ordered to leave the country in 1996.  So, in the eyes of jail staffers, Villegas was a "medium security" inmate, which required the inmate to be restrained in some way even if she was nine months pregnant.

That spokeswoman added Villegas should have been released July 10th and automatically removed from the country. Instead she was surrendered to her family.

The sheriff's department also said Villegas's jail stay was prolonged because of the 4th of July Holiday, and the obvious interruption of several days in the hospital.

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