Lawyer: Hodgson Assaulted ICE Detainee Ahead of Violent Conflict
Conflicting statements have emerged following Friday evening’s chaotic incident at the C. Carlos Carreiro Immigration Detention Center that left the Bristol County House of Correction unit with $25,000 worth of damage and resulted in solitary confinement for 26 ICE detainees.
Sheriff Thomas Hodgson on Saturday hosted a press tour of the badly damaged Unit B building and described a violent event where he was allegedly attacked by a group of ICE detainees after 10 of them refused to get COVID-19 testing. He said that all 26 remaining immigrants at the ICE lockup barricaded themselves inside the building, trashed the facility, and were eventually restrained by a special operations security team and K-9 officers. Hodgson said the men rushed at him after he tried to grab a telephone from a "ringleader" who ignored his orders. He said that during the melee, he was hit by a chair. No jail personnel were injured, but three immigrant detainees were briefly hospitalized.
During his press briefing, Hodgson blasted illegal immigration, took aim at the Massachusetts congressional delegation, and said the illegal immigrants and their advocates are pushing a “false narrative” and a “socialist agenda.”
A lawyer for the detainees on Sunday told a different story. Attorney Ira Alkalay told WBSM he was on the phone with one of the men during part of the disturbance. He claims Hodgson threw his client to the ground and pepper sprayed him when he was on the phone with counsel. Alkalay claims that it was Hodgson himself who unnecessarily inflamed the situation.
Alkalay says the men inside Unit B were suspicious about a sudden order for 10 detainees to go to the main building for COVID-19 testing. He said the detainees believed that Friday’s order for them to pack their bags for transport to the medical unit was a ploy to place them in “solitary confinement in filthy cells.” He said the detainees also feared being exposed to the virus at the main jail unit and requested to remain at Unit B and be tested there.
Alkalay said in response, Hodgson called in armed guards who threw tear gas bombs and used tasers to force compliance. Alkalay did not deny that the facility was badly damaged in the melee, and declined to speculate on who exactly caused the damage. However he said the men had barricaded themselves inside the unit because they were afraid for their lives.
“They are absolutely terrified at this point,” Alkalay said.
Alkalay was one of at least three lawyers who Friday night were denied access to their clients and told they would be arrested if they did not leave the premises. According to Commonwealth Magazine, attorney Ben Haldeman and attorney Ellen Messalli were among those to gather across the street from the facility.
Hodgson maintains that the security action was necessary and proper.
“Our medical team alerted me, and I advised the detainees that for their health and the health of their fellow detainees and our staff, they needed to be tested at the medical unit,” Hodgson said. “The detainees refused to comply, became combatant, and ultimately put the lives of themselves and many Bristol County officers at risk with their reckless actions.”
Congressman Joe Kennedy III on Saturday called for an independent investigation into reports that “Hodgson and his deputies assaulted a group of ICE detainees held at the facility.” The American Civil Liberties Union, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and others have since joined the call for an independent probe.
Hodgson on Saturday said that ICE would conduct an investigation. He said that depending upon the outcome, his office would decide whether to file criminal charges against those involved.
So far 47 ICE detainees have been released from the Bristol County lockup as a result of a class action lawsuit brought by Lawyers for Civil Rights. The suit seeks the release of detainees due to concerns over the spread of the coronavirus behind bars. Alkalay said the detainees were released under strict house arrest conditions and were not "released to the street."
Alkalay says that the 26 detainees still have not been tested for COVID-19, and that they are now held in cells with “no shoes, socks, toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, sheets, blankets, or their personal papers.” As of this date, no detainees have tested positive for COVID-19, but several staff members have.
Hodgson has repeatedly denied that conditions in the Bristol County House of Correction are substandard, and has pointed to high marks recently given his facility during two consecutive independent accreditation processes.
The Bristol County Sheriff's Office has a federal contract with ICE to house immigrant detainees who are awaiting civil deportation proceedings.