Two transgender prison inmates sued the state of Arizona and a former corrections officer, alleging the guard forced them to engage in sexual acts and the state failed to prevent the assaults.
The lawsuits filed Friday in U.S. District Court claim the guard at the Lewis prison complex in Buckeye began by flirting with the inmates and then coerced them into the acts. The inmates were both born as males and identify as female.
The guard was arrested a year ago after one of the inmates called a federal prison rape hotline and the Department of Corrections opened an investigation. Juan Ignacio Ramirez Jr. pleaded guilty in November to attempted unlawful sexual contact with just one inmate and was sentenced to 10 years’ probation.
His criminal-law attorney, Kristen Curry, said Tuesday the acts involving the inmate were completely consensual and Ramirez was never charged in a case involving the second inmate.
“I can say that what was alleged in that is not what happened,” Curry said. “She told the investigator this was a consensual encounter and that she was flattered and she was a willing participant — and that is not what she alleges in her civil suit.”
The Associated Press is not naming the inmates because they say they are victims of sex crimes. Both are serving lengthy sentences — one for aggravated assault and another for sexual contact with a minor and incest.
Their civil attorney, Stephen Benedetto, said in his court filings that one inmate was scared of the guard and suffered a nervous breakdown because of the abuse and the other became suicidal. He criticized the plea agreement, which allowed the former guard to avoid prison.
“They were raped — and this guy got probation,” Benedetto said in an interview.
Amanda Jacinto, spokeswoman for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, said no case was filed regarding the second inmate’s claims after a full investigation because there was no corroborating evidence or admissions from Ramirez.
The plea agreement Ramirez entered was reached because of several factors, including that Ramirez acknowledged the offense and that there were issues regarding consent.
Prison time was not mandatory for the offense to which Ramirez pleaded guilty, Jacinto added.
Bill Lamoreaux, a spokesman for the Department of Corrections, had no immediate comment.
The lawsuits seek damages against the state and Ramirez for violating the inmates’ constitutional rights to be free from sexual assault, and other compensation.