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The criminal case filed against a Utah immigration agent accused of using excessive force on an inmate has been dismissed again.
A federal judge on Monday dismissed a charge of deprivation of rights under the color of law against Jon Martinson Jr., according to court records.
This is the second time in the last two and a half years that a judge has tossed the case against the ICE agent, who was accused of violating Fabian Maldonado-Pineda's Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment when the agent allegedly "maliciously and sadistically" threw him to the floor on July 3, 2013.
U.S. District Judge David Sam dismissed the case during a telephone conference on Monday, according to court records.
It was an "unexpected development," said Melodie Rydalch, spokeswoman with the U.S. Attorney's Office of Utah.
The case was dismissed without prejudice meaning the federal prosecutors could seek to indict the man a third time but Rydalch couldn't say what their next step would be.
"We are considering our options," she said.
Martinson said a statement Tuesday that he hopes that the most recent dismissal will put an end to the criminal case.
"This case has exacted a toll on my family that will never be fully restored," he said.
Sam's dismissal came at the request of Martinson's defense team, who argued in court papers filed earlier this month that prosecutors have twice charged an innocent man who was doing what he had been trained to do.
The three defense attorneys Paul Cassell, Jon Williams and Jeremy Delicino further argued that the second indictment was "defective on its face" because prosecutors did not allege that Martinson's actions were "unnecessary."
"For a law enforcement officer to be criminally prosecuted for violating a prisoner's Eight Amendment rights, he must have done something to cause the 'unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain,' " the attorneys wrote in the January filing.
In a response filing, federal prosecutor John Huber wrote that it should be up to a jury to decide whether Martinson broke the law but added that he wanted to change the current indictment to include the word "unnecessary."
No written ruling from the judge has been filed in court as of Tuesday.
In July, U.S. District Judge Dee Benson dismissed the same charge against Martinson. But in that first indictment, prosecutors had claimed Martinson violated Maldonado-Pineda's Fourth Amendment right regarding unreasonable force during search and seizure.
Cassell, who is also a law professor at the University of Utah, successfully argued that because Maldonado-Pineda was not being searched by Martinson and wasn't being arrested, the Fourth Amendment violation did not apply to his client.
The latest indictment alleged Maldonado-Pineda's right against cruel and unusual punishment was violated. But Martinson's attorneys argued in court papers that prosecutors had previously told a federal judge during oral arguments for the first motion to dismiss that an Eighth Amendment violation would not apply in their case.
Williams said Tuesday that Martinson "made a split-second decision" that day in 2013 and used a government-taught and sanctioned technique to throw a disruptive, shackled inmate to the concrete floor.
"Fortunately for Martinson and his law enforcement colleagues throughout Utah, two United States District Court judges have set aside the government's second-guessing of his decision by twice dismissing all charges against Martinson," Williams said. "Each of their decisions recognizes the dangers confronted daily by law enforcement, as well as the potential for government overreaching when law enforcement officers are forced to react."
At the time of the incident, Maldonado-Pineda was in ICE custody, having been convicted of illegal re-entry to the U.S., and was being moved to a different cell because he had been disruptive to other inmates that day, according to Martinson's attorneys.
Maldonado-Pineda has filed a federal civil case against Martinson and the federal government, claiming his civil rights were violated and that Martinson used excessive force. Maldonado-Pineda's attorneys claim the throw-down caused their client to lose consciousness, and also resulted in a broken nose, injured shoulder and lost teeth. He also suffered a number of cuts on his forehead and lip that required stitches, and he received a traumatic brain injury, the complaint alleges.
That civil case has been on hold until Martinson's criminal case is resolved.