I-10 shooting suspect Leslie Merritt Jr. has filed a $10 million notice of claim against Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, the State of Arizona, Maricopa County and Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery.
[PDF: Read the Notice of Claim]
Merritt’s attorneys David Don, Ulises Ferragut and Jason Lamm allege the investigating agencies “suppressed evidence, ignored exculpatory evidence, intimidated witnesses and misused the legal process to bring false accusations against Mr. Merritt, who has remained deprived of his liberty until the present.”
A notice of claim is a preliminary legal step in filing a civil suit.
"More than likely, a lawsuit will be filed," Aaron Crane, civil attorney said. "They're (Merritt's attorneys) basically indicating that they failed to produce any evidence that Mr. Merritt, the claimant in the case, committed these crimes."
Merritt, a former landscaper, was arrested last September and is accused of four separate instances of shooting at vehicles on I-10 in August 2015.
In the claim filed Friday, his attorneys further allege the “defendants have failed to produce any evidence that Mr. Merritt was present at the scene of any of these shootings, let alone was a perpetrator in any crime.”
"As far as Leslie goes, he's a stand-up guy," Edward Sauceda, the grandfather of Merritt's fiance, said. "He's done a lot of dumb things in his life but this isn't one of them."
Sauceda said he believes Merritt is innocent and calls the charges against him "bogus" and "ludicrous."
The claim seeks to recover lost wages, legal expenses and compensation for suffering “pain, anxiety and fear.”
Merritt seeks $2.5 million from each of the four defendants.
Crane said if Merritt were to file and win a civil case, a jury could award more than the $10 million in the notice of claim if they see fit.
"Money means nothing, dollars don't mean a thing, if he's still in there," Sauceda said. "If and when they do clear him for this bogus charge, that'll tell the whole story."
“This claim is a routine filing that will be handled in due course,” said Gov. Ducey’s spokesman Daniel Scarpinato. “The underlying case is currently in the hands of the judicial branch, where we are confident the shooting suspect will receive a fair trial based on all the evidence.
When contacted, the Maricopa County Attorney's Office and the Arizona Department of Public Safety declined to comment.
The next hearing in Merritt’s case is set for March 24.
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