The Justice Department this week sent a follow-up notice demanding former Border Patrol Agent Jesus E. Diaz Jr.'s family immediately pay nearly $7,000 and imposing a lien on his property, even though he remains in prison unable to pay and his family says a judge gave them a grace period.
It's the second notice the Justice Department has sent to the family of Diaz, who was sentenced to prison for two years for using excessive force in arresting an illegal immigrant who was suspected of smuggling drugs. The new notice threatens new penalties if the money isn't paid within 30 days.
But Diaz's wife, Diana, who is also a Border Patrol agent, said she can't pay right now and that the judge in the case said they would have a 60-day grace period after Mr. Diaz is released before they would have to make a payment.
"I can forward it to him in jail, but it's not going to do any good," she said. "I don't have $7,000. I have four kids to feed."
Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican, wrote to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. earlier this week, after the family received the initial notice, and asked him to either expunge or suspend the demanded payment, citing the unusual nature of the case. Diaz was cleared by two reviews, but a third one said he used excessive force when he pushed suspected smuggler's arms above his head and used his knee to immobilize the man while trying to arrest him.
In addition to his prison sentence, Diaz is responsible for a $600 assessment of fees, $270 in restitution and a $6,000 fine.
"If [the Justice Department's] goal was to remind the Diaz family that it won in court, even though Diaz was cleared twice of any wrongdoing, then it's worth saying that the family and everyone else gets the point," said Joe Kasper, a spokesman for Mr. Hunter. "This is just a bad situation and we can only hope [the Justice Department] decides to do the right thing here."
A Justice Department spokeswoman referred questions to the U.S. attorney's office for the Western District of Texas, which said the judgment in the case doesn't preclude the department's own collection efforts.
"As we do in all cases including such language, we are pursuing statutorily authorized collection efforts," said spokesman Daryl Fields. "We are treating this case no differently than other cases."
The judgment does lay out a schedule for payments of "no less than $220.00 per month, due by the third day of each month beginning no earlier than 60 days from the date of release from imprisonment." But it goes on to say that doesn't "prevent statutorily authorized collection efforts."
The Washington Times reported Tuesday on the Justice Department's first notice to collect the fine.
Diaz's wife said he has been fired from the Border Patrol, which served him his separation notice in prison.
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