01/27/2006

Paramilitary Compound Goes to SPLC Clients

An Arizona court this week signed over the 70-acre compound formerly owned by Ranch Rescue vigilante Casey Nethercott to two El Salvadorans he terrorized nearly two years ago.

Documents granting Nethercott's property to Fatima Leiva and Edwin Mancia were signed by a Cochise County judge on Monday.

Nethercott is serving a five-year prison term in Texas stemming from a 2003 incident on a ranch near Hebbronville, Texas, where he and other members of Ranch Rescue confronted Leiva and Mancia.

Found in the brush, the two immigrants were surrounded by men shooting bullets into the air, cursing in Spanish and shouting they would kill them. Mancia was attacked by a 120-pound rottweiler and struck on the head with a gun. Leiva testified that she thought they would be killed.

A jury deadlocked on an assault charge against Nethercott, but he was convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm. He has a history of anti-immigrant activities in Texas, California and Arizona.

The Southern Poverty Law Center sued Nethercott and the Texas ranch owner on behalf of the two immigrants. The owner settled, but Nethercott did not respond, and a Texas judge ordered him to pay judgments totaling $850,000.

Nethercott tried to defraud Leiva and Mancia by signing over his Arizona property to his sister, who lives in the northern part of the state. However, the woman willingly turned over the title when she discovered she was part of a fraudulent conveyance lawsuit.

In 2004, Nethercott bought the land, located near the Mexican border, and transformed it as a training center for Ranch Rescue and, later, the Arizona Guard, another anti-immigrant group he started after splitting from Ranch Rescue.

"He purchased this property along the Mexico border so that he could hunt and terrorize border-crossers on a fulltime basis," said Center attorney Kelley Bruner, who handled the lawsuit. "And now that it is in the hands of our clients, neither he nor his cronies will be able to continue their campaign of terror."

Monday's court action was the final legal act to ensure the property goes to the two El Salvadorans, who have temporary legal status in the United States since they were victims of a crime. They plan to sell the land.