Transgender ex-convict seeks state-paid surgery, $100,000 in damages

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The family of a transgender ex-convict just released from prison talks to us about their concerns over her sentence.

Ophelia De'Lonta served more than 34 years for multiple bank robberies. Her family says that convicted murderers get less time.

Despite parole, she's still trying to force the state to pay for her sex change operation.

The Stokes family says Virginia should overhaul its sentencing guidelines. They're thankful to have their loved one home but claim the laws are unequal and need to be re-evaluated.

Ophelia De'Lonta's family is supportive and accepts the medical diagnosis, Gender Identification Disorder, but struggle with what to call Ophelia: he or she.

"It's going to take some adjustment," said Larry Stokes, Ophelia's brother. "I knew when he was 'Mike' when he went in. We played little league football... This is her new life." 

That new life, they believe, is why the transgender female was locked up so long. Ophelia sued the state many times for treatment and evaluation for a state-financed sex change surgery.
"He did a crime, but that much time, to be sentenced to 70-something years for bank robbery when murderers are being sentenced for half that time," said Larry Stokes.

Ophelia served 34 years, of a 73 year sentence. The family says the guidelines are unequal and should change.
"I understand he did wrong, but let fair sentencing in Virginia take precedence here," said Larry Stokes.

Delegate Todd Gilbert, Deputy Majority Leader of the House of Delegates, says criminal sentencing in Virginia is a model for the nation.

"We do not have non-violent people locked away in our prisons, and for someone convicted of an armed robbery to suggest that they got too much time is probably disingenuous," said Gilbert.
Ophelia alleges D.O.C. violated her constitutional rights by refusing treatment to stop her from cutting at her genitals. Her fight for the surgery isn't over.

"I've taken responsibility for my actions by serving my sentence. So, they should take responsibility for their actions for deliberate indifference to my needs," said Ophelia.

"The notion that the taxpayers would fund an operation to change this gentleman from a man to a woman is a ridiculous and absurd. I will do everything in my power to stop it," said Gilbert.

Diane: "Why is it so important, that surgery?"

Ophelia: "Because it defines... It's me. It's who I am, and I'm not whole until it's done."

According to motions filed by Ophelia's attorneys, Ophelia wants a summary judgement. In other words, they say a trial is unnecessary, and their client is entitled to a favorable judgement, based on case law.

U.S. District Court set a hearing for June. Ophelia also wants $100,000 in damages.

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