Minami Tamaki LLP and Szeto-Wong Law File Civil Rights Lawsuit Alleging Sutter County Delayed Hate Crime Investigation

Minami Tamaki LLP and Szeto-Wong Law File Civil Rights Lawsuit Alleging Sutter County Delayed Hate Crime Investigation

Rouble Claire, a Sikh American in Sutter, California, was victimized by threats and racial slurs in May 2021 and called 911 for help. Representatives of the local sheriff’s office took no action immediately following the incident, except for a deputy that tried to wash away the evidence. The sheriff’s office ignored Mr. Claire’s repeated requests for help for several months afterward.

Mr. Claire asked the Sikh Coalition for help and their efforts led to the sheriff’s office eventually recommending charges against the two civilian defendants, one of whom is still unidentified, but the district attorney declined to press charges, and the perpetrators were never held accountable.

On May 9, 2022, Minami Tamaki LLP and Szeto-Wong Law filed a lawsuit in the Eastern District of California against officers of the Sutter County Sheriff’s Office (“Sheriff’s Office”), Sutter County, and two civilian individuals.

“No one should have to face this kind of hate and the threat of violence,” said Minami Tamaki Partner Sean Tamura-Sato. “It is truly disheartening to see those entrusted with protecting victims like Mr. Claire abdicate their responsibility.”

 “This civil suit is a first step to remedying that failure, as well as taking legal action against the women who threatened and harassed him, who have faced no consequences whatsoever due to Sutter County’s practice of inadequately investigating and prosecuting hate crimes against racial and ethnic minorities,” said Szeto-Wong Law Principal Attorney Gina Szeto-Wong.

Claire, a first-generation Sikh American whose family has called Sutter, California, home since 1973, was threatened with racial slurs and vehicular violence and then, in a second separate but related incident hours later, subjected to hateful graffiti at his home.

On May 11, 2021, a woman confronted Mr. Claire in the parking lot of a local store. The woman shouted at Mr. Claire, including calling him a “f—— Hindu.”  The woman then sped towards Mr. Claire in her car, only swerving away at the last moment.  Mr. Claire called 911 and waited for the Sheriff’s Office to report to the scene, but no one arrived at the scene, so Mr. Claire returned to his home.

Later that same day, an associate of the woman who threatened Mr. Claire in the parking lot went to his house and wrote “Sand N—–” in chalk on the street and on his driveway, and called him “N—–.”  Mr. Claire again called law enforcement to report this incident, but the Sheriff’s Office failed to make any arrests, failed to further investigate, and failed to even prepare a report of the two incidents that day. 

One deputy who responded to the chalking incident poured water on the chalking in an attempt to wash away the evidence of the racial slurs before taking photos of the scene.

Over the next several months, Mr. Claire continued to contact the Sheriff’s Office about these disturbing incidents, but the Sheriff’s Office refused to take action.  Mr. Claire sought the assistance of the Sikh Coalition, which continued to follow up with the Sheriff’s Office.  The Sheriff’s Office finally prepared a police report that recommended criminal charges against the woman who threatened Ms. Claire in the parking lot. 

However, the Sutter County District Attorney’s Office (the “District Attorney”) declined to press charges.  The District Attorney’s office cited the amount of time that had elapsed between the incidents and the preparation of the report recommending charges as a reason not to prosecute the matter, despite the fact that this delay was due to the Sheriff’s Office’s months-long delay in investigating this matter and recommending charges. 

Mr. Claire’s lawsuit includes a Municipal Liability claim against the County of Sutter for Unconstitutional Policy, Practice or Custom (42 U.S.C. 1983), and claims against Sheriff’s Office Deputies for Violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution regarding the failure to administer police services in a non-discriminatory manner (42 U.S.C. 1983) and Conspiracy to Violate Civil Rights (42 U.S.C. 1985).  The suit also alleges violations of state law, including the Ralph Civil Rights Act, the Tom Bane Civil Rights Act, and claims of Assault, Trespass, and Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress against the civilian defendants. 

The case is Claire v. County of Sutter, et al., 22-cv-00780-WBS-AC, Eastern District of California.

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