Former jailers sue Cameron County Sheriff

Attorney Barry Benton

Cameron County's Sheriff is being sued for slander by two of his former employees who claim they were unjustly fired and their reputations were tarnished.

The jailers, Mario Garcia and Ben Taliancich were fired early last year.

They were accused of abuse of official capacity and official oppression for allegedly not notifying supervisors of a third jailer beating an inmate.

Attorney Barry Benton said the charges were dropped, but the damage was already done.

To both Garcia and Taliancich's surprise, said Benton. He pushed him on to the bunk and either slapped or slugged him in the back of the head.

It was a crime that three Cameron County jailers were accused of being a part of last year.

Jailer Pedro Gomez was accused of assaulting an inmate and 22 and 28-year-olds at the time.

Taliancich and Garcia were accused of official oppression and abuse of official capacity for failing to report the alleged assault.

Just days later, Sheriff Omar Lucio in a press conference announced he had fired the jailers.

But a year later, Benton said Garcia and Taliancich, are fighting back against the allegations.

"Mere presence is not a crime, said Benton. Standing downtown near a store front and a guy I don TMt know throws a rock, I TMm not guilty for just being there, you've got to intentionally do something - intent and act.

Benton said his clients assisted a jailer when he called for help with a rowdy inmate, but played no role in assaulting the prisoner.

In fact, Benton claimed they asked the third jailer to stop the assault.

Benton admits his clients did not immediately report the incident to supervisors, but disagrees with Sheriff Lucio going public about the incident and according to their lawsuit "defaming".

"and he says things like they were out to get this guy, teach him a lesson...Did he have anything in front of him that indicated that my two guys were out to get this guy because i haven't seen it"

Also named in the lawsuit is Sheriff Investigator Gilberto Cisneros who assigned to the case against the jailers.

Benton said Cisneros' report of the crime did not prove Garcia and Taliancich were guilty of wrongdoing.

"And next thing you know they're in their orange jumpers, said Benton. Stations like yours are showing these guys are criminals and these are young guys trying to make it in law enforcement this is not good for their careers, their life, they're humiliated - you can imagine"

The Cameron County District Attorney's Office dismissed the charges on August 1, 2011 for insufficient evidence, but according to the former jailers, they suffered extreme mental anguish, humiliation, depression and their reputations were thoroughly damaged in the community.

Sheriff Omar Lucio referred us to county litigation attorney Juan Gonzalez who said Lucio and Cisneros were served with the lawsuit just days ago.

The county will review the lawsuit and determine if it will be treated as a county matter.