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VOL. 36 | NO. 38 | Friday, September 21, 2012

Judge: Woman should get $1.1M, pursue 'U visa'

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NASHVILLE (AP) — A Nashville woman who won a lawsuit against the Davidson County Sheriff's Office for being shackled by deputies during labor should be awarded $1.1 million and also be allowed to pursue a visa reserved for crime victims, a federal judge ruled Thursday.

U.S. District Judge William Haynes Jr. issued his ruling in the case of Juana Villegas, who was arrested in July 2008 on a minor traffic violation. The charges were later dropped, and a jury awarded her $200,000 in damages.

Villegas testified that her wrists and ankles were bound during an ambulance ride from the jail to the hospital.

Her attorneys were seeking $1.2 million for her post-traumatic stress disorder and emotional stress from the shackling.

In his ruling, Haynes said Metro government should pay Villegas $1.1 million in attorney fees and other expenses.

He also said that she had met a minimum burden for a "U visa," which was created to protect residents who are crime victims and may not report crimes for fear of deportation.

"In reaching its conclusion, the court is not affirmatively concluding that the acts in the record constitute crimes, but is merely concluding for these purposes that the plaintiff met her minimum burden of showing that she is entitled to U visa certification," Haynes wrote.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service will have the final say as to whether she should get one.

Nashville immigration attorney Elliott Ozment, who is representing Villegas, called the judge's ruling "an extremely significant decision."

"I'm elated," he said. "Without this ruling, Juana Villegas would not have any chance of getting a U visa."