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Jury Deadlocks Over Punching of Alien

August 19, 1986

A deadlocked jury produced a mistrial in U.S. District Court on Monday in the case of a U.S. Customs inspector accused of punching a handcuffed illegal alien.

The jury split 10-1, with most favoring conviction, in the trial of William Grimes, 41, a 12-year Customs employee. Grimes was charged with violating the civil rights of Jamie Gonzalez last October. One juror was excused from the case Friday to begin a scheduled vacation.

U.S. Atty. Peter K. Nunez said he would seek another trial for Grimes and said the case was one of a handful of civil rights cases each year that involve immigration and border officials.

Two Customs inspectors and an Immigration and Naturalization Service agent testified at the trial that Grimes punched Gonzalez in the chest after the illegal alien had been detained for walking across the border at San Ysidro. INS agents were leading Gonzalez into a federal building when, officials testified, Grimes swore at him and struck him without provocation.

John Mitchell, Grimes' attorney, said Grimes did push Gonzalez with an open hand, but did it merely to protect himself. Gonzalez was deported to Mexico the day of the incident and federal officials don't know his whereabouts, a prosecutor said.

Grimes' superiors began an investigation when a senior Customs officer learned of the reported beating and complained.

Grimes will remain on unpaid leave until the case is settled. Suspension or dismissal "is a very real possibility" if he is convicted, according to John Miller, public affairs specialist for the Customs Service. If convicted, Grimes could receive a year in jail and a $100,000 fine.

A hearing for retrial is set for Aug. 27.

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