Family Of Women And Children Slain In Sonora, Mexico, Sue Juarez Cartel

Published: Thursday, July 30, 2020 - 3:26pm
Updated: Monday, August 3, 2020 - 11:57am
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Murphy Woodhouse/KJZZ
Family carried the coffins to three waiting trucks after the first funeral ceremony.

In what they are calling historic litigation, family members of nine women and children slain in an attack by suspected drug cartel members in northern Mexico last November have filed a lawsuit against the cartel, arguing the cartel is an international terrorist organization.

The lawsuit details the gruesome massacre of three women and six children, all dual U.S. and Mexican citizens, in a cartel ambush in northern Sonora, Mexico, on Nov. 4, 2019.

Filed in U.S. federal court in North Dakota, where several of the plaintiffs reside, the lawsuit seeks monetary damages for seven claims against the Juarez Cartel, including acts of international terrorism, assault and battery, wrongful death, emotional distress and others. The family is asking for a jury trial, and damages they hope could discourage cartels from carrying out similar violence again in the future, according to a press release from attorneys representing the plaintiffs.

“We're tired of living in fear. And we’re hopeful that this will really cripple these cartels financially so that they’re no longer more powerful than the Mexican government," said Bryan LeBaron, a family member not party to the suit, calling this a tool to diminish cartel power in Mexico.

"Really the main hope is for this to become a tool for the future," he said. "We're hoping to be a part of helping to establish that path, both in U.S. courts and in international courts, if in this case we can prove that this is an act of terrorism and we can hit them financially."

Last year President Donald Trump after the massacre said that he would designate the cartel as a terrorist group. But Mexico pushed back against the designation.

But LeBaron said the family is committed to fighting cartel violence that have ravaged families across the country. Before the coronavirus pandemic hit, members of the family had led protests and marches against violence with other victims in Mexico.

"We've as a family been looking for all the tools at our disposal," LeBaron said.

As one of the first civil actions brought against a Mexican cartel in the United States, the lawsuit lays out not only the details of the Nov. 4 attack, but also the history of the Juarez Cartel.

"The Juarez Cartel has engaged in a decades-long effort to maintain a state of terror and unrest throughout Chihuahua and parts of Sonora. The goal of their campaign of terror has been to paralyze intimidate and threaten the Mexican government, local police, prosecutors and the civilian population," the lawsuit says, calling the massacre of nine women and children the most ruthless act to date.

In a letter to the plaintiffs Thursday, shared with KJZZ, the family's lawyers said the complaint was being translated into Spanish so the defendant could be served, as required by court rules and by the U.S Constitution.

"When the translation is complete we will be asking the court for permission to serve the complaint through alternative means," the letter said. "We are exploring the best way to serve the complaint, including the option of publishing a notice in a local Mexican newspaper."

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