Connect with us

Civil Rights

Central Falls elected officials counter sue Wyatt bondholders under ‘Anti-SLAPP law’

Published

on

In response to a lawsuit from UMB Bank, representing the Wyatt Detention Facility‘s bondholders (aka ‘The Trustees’), elected officials from Central Falls, named in the lawsuit, are countersuing.

After the Central Falls Detention Facility Corporation (CFDFC), which oversees the Wyatt, voted to stay a contract with the United States Marshall Service to house United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees, the bondholders sued. The bondholders named Central Falls Mayor James Diossa, Central Falls City Council President Maria Rivera and Central Falls City Councilors Jonathan Acosta, Hugo Figueroa, Franklin Solano, and Jessica Vega in their lawsuit, as well as members of the CFDFC board.

James Diossa

At issue were public statements from the named elected officials opposing the continuing operation of the Wyatt Detention Facility, and protests the elected officials engaged in.


See:


In a counter suit filed on April 23, Central Falls City Solicitor Matthew Jerzyk counters that, “the Mayor and Councilmembers have spoken out against the action of the Corporation and the Warden, as is their First Amendment right to do so.”


Can we please ask a favor?

Funding for our reporting relies on the generosity of readers like you. Our independence is how we are able to write stories that hold RI state and local government officials accountable. All of our stories are free and available to everyone right here at UpriseRI.com. But your support is essential to keeping Steve on the beat, covering the costs of reporting many stories in a single day. If you are able to, please support Uprise RI by becoming a patron. Every contribution, big or small is so valuable to us. You provide the motivation and financial support to keep doing what we do. Thank you.

Become a Patron!
Opens in a new tab - you won't lose you place

The counter suit continues:

“The words of Mayor Diossa and actions of the Councilmembers have had no direct impact on the Trustee, the bondholders, the United States Marshall Service contract, or the Corporation. City leaders have merely spoken out against the Corporation on a policy level and the resolutions passed by the Council are symbolic expressions of disagreement with no legal effect.

“The Trustee’s counts filed against the City, Mayor Diossa, and the Councilmembers are meant to silence the First Amendment expression of Mayor Diossa, and the Councilmembers who are speaking on a matter of public concern on behalf of the community they serve regarding an instrumentality and agency of the City.

“This is precisely the type of speech that is protected by G.L. 1956 § 9-33-1.

“The Trustee’s threat of litigation and damages of $130,000,000.00 is intended to intimidate and pressure Mayor Diossa and the Councilmembers to silence their statements against the Corporation.

“The Trustee’s suit is brought in violation of G.L. 1956 § 9-33-1 et seq., commonly known as the state’s “Anti-SLAPP” law.

“Mayor Diossa’s and the Councilmembers’ exercise of their right of free speech under the United States or Rhode Island constitutions in connection with a matter of public concern, namely the detention on the ICE asylum-seeking detainee’s held at the Wyatt, are conditionally immune from the Trustee’s civil claims.”

The lawsuit is seeking attorney fees, costs and damages.


UpriseRI is entirely supported by donations and advertising. Every little bit helps:
Become a Patron!

Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for half a decade. Uprise RI is his new project, and he's doing all he can to make it essential reading. atomicsteve@gmail.com