Tampa, FL – A woman is suing Florida jail employees after she claims she was forced to spend about 10 hours in a cell with 40 men because they thought that she was transgender.
Fior Pichardo de Veloz was arrested and booked as a man at the Miami-Dade County Corrections Department, according to the Miami Herald.
Pichardo de Veloz, 55, is an attorney and a local elected official in the Dominican Republic.
She came to the U.S. in 2013 for the birth of her granddaughter in 2013 in Miami, according to the Miami Herald. Upon her arrival, she was arrested on an outstanding drug warrant.
She was arrested at Miami International Airport on Nov. 4, 2013.
The arresting officer listed her as female and she was processed as a woman at the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center. A female officer strip searched her and examined her private areas looking for contraband, according to the Miami Herald.
Pichardo de Veloz has a history of high blood pressure so she was taken to the medical unit for a checkup. The nurse then asked a corrections officer if Pichardo de Veloz was a man because she was taking hormone pills. Fatu Kamra Harris, the nurse, told the employee sometimes male prisoners take hormone pills to enhance their breasts. The Miami Herald reported that Pichardo de Veloz was taking the hormone pills as part of hormone replacement therapy to deal with symptoms of menopause.
Harris asked Picharo de Veloz if she was a man and Pichardo de Veloz was baffled and said she was a woman. The nurse led Pichardo de Veloz to an exam room and left before the doctor arrived.
Dr. Fredesvino Rodriguez-Garcia came in and didn’t have Pichardo de Veloz undress but just asked her questions about her medical history. Rodriguez-Garcia did not ask her about her gender or about the hormone pills, according to the Miami Herald.
Rodriguez-Garcia didn’t do a physical examination of Pichardo de Veloz and reclassified her as a man.
Harris had told Corrections Officer Audrey Morman that “everything fell out” – meaning that Pichardo de Veloz’s male genitals had been discovered even though the nurse was not in the exam room, according to the Miami Herald. The nurse added a note to Pichardo de Veloz’s file that read: "Transgender, male parts, female tendencies.”
Officer Morman had protested but had to follow the doctor’s orders. Corrections Officer Kimberly Jones also asked the nurse three times if she had examined Pichardo de Veloz’s private parts, according to the Miami Herald. The nurse brushed her off, according to the Miami Herald and said, “She’s a man” and walked away.
Pichardo de Veloz arrived at the all-male jail and insisted she was a woman.
“You are a woman,” the officer replied according to the court complaint. “Good luck if you’re alive tomorrow.”
The court complaint said that Pichardo de Veloz was so worried about her safety that she urinated on herself rather than use the jail facilities.
Jailers didn’t realize the mistake until her family members arrived and demanded to know why she was booked as a male. Pichardo de Veloz was taken out of the jail and received a new examination.
A federal judge initially threw out her lawsuit and said that the jail employees were protected against a trial for negligence.
A federal appeals court reinstated the lawsuit against the jail doctor and nurse who insisted she be booked as a man, the Miami Herald reported.
“Every reasonable prison officer and medical personnel would have known that wrongfully misclassifying a biological female as a male inmate and placing that female in the male population of a detention facility was unlawful,” Judge Frank Hull stated in an unanimous opinion Nov. 21, according to the Miami Herald.
Pichardo de Veloz can now get a trail against Dr. Rodriguez-Garcia and nurse Harris.
“The opinion correctly held, as we believed, that the defendants could not be so struthious as to ignore the overwhelming evidence in front of them that Mrs. Pichardo was in fact female,” said her lawyer Ryan Marks, according to the Miami Herald.