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Lawyer: Prior arrest not the issue
by Lauren McSherry
The lawyer for the 29-year-old Muslim woman who is suing San Bernardino County for violating her religious freedom by forcing her to remove her head scarf said Monday his client's previous arrest record has nothing to do with the issue at stake in the current case.
Jameelah Medina, a Rialto resident and doctoral student at Claremont Graduate University, was arrested and pleaded guilty to identity theft in 2001, the District Attorney's Office confirmed Friday. She spent two days in county jail and served three years probation.
"The county is only telling you the piece that is convenient to them," said Hector Villagra, Medina's lawyer and the director of the American Civil Liberties Union Orange County office. "It's a typical tactic on their part to attack the victim. None of this has any bearing."
Villagra said after she served probation, Medina's record was expunged, and her guilty plea was changed to not guilty.
Medina has brought a federal lawsuit, which is backed by the national and local chapters of the ACLU, against the county. The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court. Medina claims her First Amendment rights were violated when sheriff's deputies forced her to remove her hijab, a head scarf covering the neck and shoulders.
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