* Editor’s Note: Neil Gehlawat is no longer an attorney with Chain | Cohn | Stiles *
Lindsay resident Maria Guadalupe Rodelo, 32, had never been in trouble a day in her adult life. In fact, the last time the mother of two remembers any sort of punishment was when she skipped school one time in junior high school.
So it was especially distressing to her when, on May 20, 2015, Tulare Police officers pulled her over for talking on her cell phone while driving. After asking her to step out of her vehicle, Tulare Police officers arrested her without reading her Miranda Rights, placed her in handcuffs and in the backseat of a patrol car, and took her to the Tulare Police Department station. Officers told her she was arrested because she had an outstanding misdemeanor warrant and a felony warrant for her arrest. She was taken to Tulare County Jail (Bob Wiley Detention Facility), where she was repeatedly ridiculed and mocked by jail staff. For three days she was confined to a jail cell until she was released on May 22.
The truth is that Maria Guadalupe Rodelo has never been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony, and she had no outstanding warrants for her arrest at the time of this incident.
On behalf of Rodelo, Bakersfield-based law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles has filed a government claim against the City of Tulare and County of Tulare for false imprisonment, false arrest, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligence.
Attorney Neil Gehlawat of Chain | Cohn | Stiles held a press conference Tuesday outside of Tulare Police Department to discuss the filing of the claim. He was joined with victim Maria Rodelo, who spoke with Central Valley media — from Tulare, Visalia and Fresno — about her experience.
“I was treated like a criminal before I even went jail, I felt violated,” Rodelo told media. “It was horrible, humiliating. What happened to me, it’s never gonna go away, it’s not gonna disappear.”
A Tulare Police spokesman said the department is looking into the claim. He also said all officers are trained to follow a procedure when making an arrest, which includes checking names, dates of birth and social security numbers. It’s possible the procedure was not followed with Rodelo.
Attorney Gehlawat told media the goal in filing the claim is to get justice for Ms. Rodelo.
She doesn’t want this to happen to anybody else,” Gehlawat said. “We are holding people accountable.”
- Tulare woman claims she spent 3 days in jail for crimes someone else committed (ABC 30 Action News, KFSN-TV Fresno)
- Woman claims she was wrongfully arrested (Your Central Valley, KGPE-TV CBS 47, KSEE 24 Fresno)
- Claim against Tulare police alleges false arrest, imprisonment (Visalia Times-Delta)
- Woman claims false imprisonment in Tulare County (Fresno Bee)
- Lindsay woman files false arrest claim (Porterville Recorder)