Beaver Dam, WI— A $5 million claim against Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) for an “illegal arrest and imprisonment” that took place in Dodge County is raising serious questions about how unethical behavior, that looks like illegal activity, on the part of the county’s Sheriff could affect the price of the settlement. It also raises questions about collaborations between local law enforcement and ICE.
On February 27, 2017, drug interventionist Selepri Amachree walked into the Dodge County Sheriff’s Department, hoping to meet with Sheriff Dale Schmidt to discuss how his intervention program helps people facing criminal charges as a result of drug addiction. However, Amachree actually walked into a “set-up” designed for the purpose of enforcing a federal immigration arrest.
Amachree’s arrest was followed by a six and a half month detainment in the Dodge County Detention Facility in Juneau. On September 4, 2018, the federal government acknowledged the charges of illegal arrest and subsequent imprisonment in response to the $5 million claim filed against them via letter from the District Court Litigation Division of Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE).
In a meeting with the Sheriff prior to the arrest, Amachree learned the District Attorney was pulling his professional status. Tension between Amachree and the DA may have played a role in the alleged illegal arrest and detainment by ICE.
Since the government sconfirmed an illegal arrest and detainment, ICE is looking at different facts, asking how the illegal arrest and imprisonment was “damaging” to the interventionist.
An email discovered by part of a public records investigation reveals Amachree’s arrest was a back door deal between ICE and the Dodge County Sheriff, who was not protected under a 287(g) federal agreement, to participate in or “set up” a federal arrest. The Sheriff is recorded several times, including in a video of his second debate in the running for re-election, saying that the government “asked for my assistance” in the arrest of Amachree. The email reveals DCSD continued to push the government on the issue of Amachree’s immigration status. The email discovery became a pivotal amendment to the claim filed against ICE by Chicago attorney, John D. Gorby.
A Waukesha attorney said, “It’s a fine line with this situation, but the official definition of ‘impersonating a federal officer’ is: an act of falsely portraying oneself as, or as authorized by, an official government authority, for the purpose of deception. Making it sound like he was somehow authorized by ICE, if he wasn’t, enables that sheriff to legitimize the appearance of an illegal act.”
According to phone records, while Amachree was being illegally held in the detention facility, the Sheriff contacted his wife, in what she describes as an attempt to have her divorce Amachree while he was being held.
Using phrases like, “You may want to make some changes”, he urged her to come to his office and even offered to go to her home to meet with her. She refused. Schmidt was meddling in the personal affairs of a detainee entrusted into his custody by the federal government, while creating the very stress, tension, and mental anguish that the government is now trying to put a value on.
During Amachree’s time in detention, his father became terminally ill. His wife petitioned ICE to allow him to see his father, who was unconscious on his death bed at the University of Iowa Medical Center. On April 14, 2017, Selepri was transported in shackles for six hours to an Illinois county jail, and then another two hours to Iowa City.
“The leg shackles were so tight that they were rubbing against my ankle bones and nearly impossible to walk in.” Amachree said. “It hurt so badly that they had to take me back to the police vehicle in a wheelchair.”
He was forced to spend four days in a holding cell. “It smelled like urine and the toilet was crusted with dried vomit and urine.”
Selepri spent two hours in the hospital with his unconscious father. It was the last time he would see his father alive.
“I called my mother to see how Dad was doing. She said he’s gone and she just cried on the phone” he recalls. ICE did not allow him to attend the funeral with his family, and he was forced to grieve alone.
HIs saving grace was God. With encouragement from his wife, he focused his energy on sharing that faith with other men in detention. One of those detainees asked Amachree to help him get baptized. Amachree had his wife post a picture of himself with the man on Facebook to get the attention of a pastor who might come to the detention center and baptize other detainees.
The Sheriff’s Department sent the picture to Sheriff Schmidt who, on July 7, 2017, revoked visits between Amachree and his wife for three months. The couple was devastated. “We knew that we were being targeted”, Amachree said.
An anonymous source at the detention facility said, “It was weird because the Sheriff never involves himself in petty matters like that.”
Sheriff Schmidt also was on CBS News in an interview with Michele McCormack to seemingly give credibility to the arrest.
“When I interview people, I feel I’m open and honest and I like to assume that everyone is the same back to me. I am dumbfounded by all of this” said McCormack, who now feels she was duped by the Sheriff.
Schmidt’s also connected Amachree to an alleged sexual assault in a report he publicized while Amachree was detained. The woman was told that her family might be compensated with $6,000 to $7,000 (the cost of her intervention) for giving a statement against Amachree. They never got the statement, but Schmidt still sent a letter to the judges and others in the Dodge County community, that said Amachree was accused of this offense “by one of his students.”
Retired California senior Police Detective John Gordon said, “As an experienced member of the law enforcement community, I am appalled at the actions of Sheriff Schmidt. His actions constitute nothing but an abuse of authority and a purposeful attempt to circumvent the due process because of his personal feelings about Mr. Amachree. Action such as this causes irreparable damage to the public trust, putting our officers and communities at risk.”
Gordon took his findings regarding Amachree’s arrest last year to an FBI senior director who made contact with the US Attorney’s office to inquire about the strange nature of Amachree’s arrest.
As ICE looks into the their illegal arrest and six and a half month detention of Amachree, they will have to take into consideration the emotional duress that came from the verbal and psychological cruelty Amachree endured in federal custody.