“Lawman” Seagal is accused of overkill against a cockfighting suspect for his reality series
Steven Seagal is being sued by an Arizona man over a raid in which Seagal and sheriff's deputies used a SWAT tank and other armored vehicles to bust up an alleged cockfighting ring at his home for the A&E show "Steven Seagal: Lawman."
In the civil suit filed Tuesday — which also names the Maricopa County Sheriff's Department — Jesus Llovera claims that the March 10, 2011 raid on his Laveen, Ariz., residence was excessive, and played up for the sake of the show, AZ Central reports.
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It involved a SWAT team, a bomb robot and 40 deputies. Seagal was joined by Maricopa County's self-proclaimed "America's Toughest Sheriff," whose headline-grabbing antics have included making jail inmates wear pink underwear and investigating President Obama's birth.
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Deputies from the Maricopa County Sheriff's Department said they believed that Llovera, who had earlier pleaded guilty to attending a May 2010 cockfight, had roosters and chickens on his property in violation of his probation, and that he was raising birds to fight, a felony.
Law enforcement discovered more than 100 roosters on the property, some bearing alterations suggesting that they had been bred for cockfighting, authorities said. The birds were subsequently euthanized.
Llovera was charged with raising animals for cockfighting and possession of dangerous drugs, which he allegedly used on the animals. His attorney has requested that evidence in the case be tossed, saying that the warrant was not properly served.
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Llovera's attorney, Robert Campos, maintained his client's innocence to TheWrap, saying, "There is no evidence he ever sold a rooster or ever engaged a bird to fight. The sheriff's office did not find any weapons, money, betting evidence, enclosures for cockfighting, trophies for cockfighting, pits or arenas for cockfighting, or any type of razors used for cockfighting."
Regardless of whether one believes Llovera was involved in cockfighting, Campos added, "there was no justification for the sheriff's office to destroy my client's home, to demolish his fence, to destroy his daughter's bedroom, to bring 30 to 40 fully armed SWAT officers, to bring a tank, the entire bomb unit, a bomb robot, canine units, to set off explosive devices for confusing my client and to have Steven Seagal's production company filming to make an exciting reality show at the expense of my client's constitutional rights.
"All the sheriff's office had to do was to call my client and ask him to meet with them," Campos said. "But this common sense does not make for good reality television."
Sheriff's deputy chief Dave Trombi told AZ Central that the raid was standard operating procedure, and was not beefed up for television.
"The search warrant was going to occur with or without Seagal," Trombi said. "The search warrant was not based at all on the needs of the production company."
Llovera's lawsuit claims that the raid fits a pattern of Arpaio "arresting and prosecuting individuals without probable cause solely for the selfish and improper purposes of achieving personal and political gain through publicity."
Arpaio previously participated in a reality series, "Smile … You're Under Arrest!" on the Fox Reality Channel.
"Steven Seagal: Lawman" follows former action star Seagal as he performs duties as a deputized officer. The episode featuring the raid on Llovera's home was scheduled to air on Jan. 4, but the A&E Network, which airs the series, has pulled the current season from its schedule.
A&E has not yet responded to TheWrap's request for comment, nor has a spokesman for Seagal.
Llovera is seeking unspecified damages, to be determined by a jury.