Judge dismisses Trust Act lawsuit against McHenry County Sheriff Bill Prim

WOODSTOCK – A judge has dismissed a lawsuit against McHenry County Sheriff Bill Prim that claimed he violated the Trust Act when he allegedly held a Crystal Lake man in jail based on his immigration status.

The lawsuit centered around Pascasio Martinez, 34, who claimed in a lawsuit that he has remained in federal custody on an immigration hold since an Aug. 31 drunken driving arrest.

Judge Thomas A. Meyer this week ruled that the lawsuits failed to find a burden of proof showing Prim violated the Trust Act – a measure prohibiting local and state police from searching, arresting or detaining a person simply because of his or her immigration status.

Citing the Trust Act, Prim's attorneys this week filed a motion to dismiss an emergency motion filed by Martinez's attorneys to release him and Niceforo Macedo-Hernandez – another man suing the sheriff for violating the Trust Act – from jail.

Meyer granted their wish and dismissed the motions to free the men, according to a court order.

“We’re satisfied with the two most recent dispositions,” said McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally, who represented Prim.

He would not comment on the remaining lawsuit against the county's top law enforcement official. Macedo-Hernandez, 46, argued in his lawsuit that Prim unlawfully detained him and two unnamed men. His case remains open.

Attorneys representing Martinez plan to fight the decision and have filed an appeal.

“We disagree with this assessment and have already issued notices to appeal the court’s findings,” said Elizabeth Vonau, an attorney representing Martinez.

Prim would not comment because of the pending litigation. The sheriff previously has declined to comment on the Trust Act cases outside of a statement earlier this month that said he was "moving slowly and cautiously with public safety as [their] foremost consideration, consistent with constitutional responsibilities."

McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks did not respond to a request for comment.

In a request filed in McHenry County Circuit Court this week, the Department of Justice asked that the judge withhold any ruling in the case until the department responds, because the lawsuit “may affect federal interests.”

Because the lawsuits were dismissed, the Justice Department’s request was denied.

Citing the Trust Act, Martinez claimed that his civil rights were violated when the sheriff refused to release him after he posted bond.

Martinez’s suit alleged that the county and Prim purposefully are not enforcing the law because of a county contract to rent jail beds to the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The county long has rented space on the third floor of the jail to ICE and the U.S. Marshal’s Office.

Because the federal government is under contract with the McHenry County Jail, the Justice Department asked to be involved in the court case against Prim, according to court records.

“The United States respectfully requests that this court refrain from ruling on any pending motions that may affect the United States’ interests, and provide the United States a reasonable opportunity to respond to any properly filed pleadings or motions challenging ICE’s detention authority or contractual arrangement with McHenry County,” read a request filed in McHenry County court this week.

The jail has had an agreement with ICE since 2014 that allows it to house federal detainees in the jail for between $85 and $95 a day for each inmate, and a transportation rate from $34 to $48 an hour, according to court documents.

The McHenry County Jail housed 280 daily ICE inmates in 2011. That number dropped to 179 in 2013, according to the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office website.

Gov. Bruce Rauner signed the Trust Act on Aug. 28. Previously, jails across the state could hold a defendant on an immigration detainer, but now the state law requires a federal warrant signed by a judge.