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Civil rights lawsuit filed for man accused in death of St. Johns County deputy

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. — A federal civil rights lawsuit has been filed for the suspect that St. Johns County deputies say led to the death of one of their own.

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It comes months after St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office Sergeant Michael Kunovich died shortly after fighting on the ground with Virgilio Aguilar Mendez during an attempt to place him in custody.

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Attorneys for Aguilar Mendez said he doesn’t speak English and didn’t commit a crime. His defense said that he was trying to call his parents, didn’t know why Kunovich was trying to search and arrest him, and he has since been ruled incompetent to stand trial because of his disability.

The lawsuit against the county and two deputies says the sheriff’s office discriminated against him because of the disability and they denied him access to language translation services, saying they should have according to their own policy.

The lawsuit also says after the arrest the sheriff’s office didn’t give him an interpreter before an interrogation.

Action News Jax law and safety expert Dale Carson weighed in on the documents.

“In a case like this, the value of your advisor, of your constitutional rights, is not authentic because if you don’t speak the language, you can’t be questioned anyway and the advice of rights is only required when you’re being interviewed about substance matters related to the allegations against you,” Carson said.

Carson says this won’t impact the criminal trial considering he’s currently not competent to stand it.

“In a circumstance like this there is no leverage to be brought by a case like this,” Carson said. “There is no leverage because it is a statutorily awarded fee connected with this. There’s no demand for a jury trial. You don’t see a requested amount of $5 million in recovery damages... that’s not in there.”

A medical examiner ruled that Sgt. Kunovich died of natural causes and was dealing with respiratory issues.

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Action News Jax reached out to the county and the sheriff’s office for a comment. The county directed all comments to SJCSO. A spokesperson for the agency said they’re getting with general counsel to see if they have seen it before making an official comment.

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