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Woman shackled during labor gets $200,000.

August 25, 2011

An illegal immigrant awarded $200,000 in damages after being shackled while pregnant, in labor and during postpartum recovery will ask a federal judge permission to legally remain in the U.S.

A judge on Thursday ruled in favour of Juana Villegas in a civil case filed against the joint government of Nashville and Davidson County, stemming from a 2008 arrest on a minor traffic violation.

Her attorney, Elliott Ozment, said on Saturday he will file a motion for a specific visa granted to illegal immigrants deemed victims of crime.

If a judge certifies she is eligible for the rare U-visa, Mr Ozment said he will proceed to immigration officials to see if the special status will be granted to his client

Appearing on a Saturday evening CNN broadcast, Mr Ozment said the visa would allow Ms Villegas , a Mexican national, to live and work legally in the country for three years.

The status can be renewed for another three years after its expiration.

During that period, Ms Villegas could adjust her status and become a legal citizen, Mr Ozment said.’We think the level of misconduct has risen to such a high level that she deserves a U-visa for what she suffered. She has been the victim of a terrible, terrible wrong,’ he said.A U-visa has been awarded by a federal judge only one time before.But it would not be Ms Villegas’ first legal success.

The court ruled in April that the sheriff’s office violated herconstitutional rights by showing indifference to her medical needs.And on Thursday,a federal jury awarded her $200,000 in monetary damages for claims she was shackled by Davidson County Sheriff’s deputies during labour.Ms Villegas told the court that she feared she would not be able to deliver her baby with leg restraints.

A psychiatrist testified she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.
The suit initially targeted federal officials. That part of the case was dismissed.

Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall said the department plans to appeal the decision.

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