RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A transgender inmate's sexual abuse lawsuit against the Virginia Department of Corrections will go to trial.
Ophelia De'lonta, the same inmate who's seeking sex change surgery - paid for by the state - also alleges a correctional officer at Buckingham Correctional Center sexually abused her.
A U.S. District Court judge is now ordering a trial date be set.
The correctional officer is identified in court documents as Sarah Pruitt, a female prison guard.
I reached out to Pruitt's lawyer, A. Pierre Jackson, and was told attorney Jackson does not discuss pending litigation with the media. He may be willing to talk after the trial.
Ophelia De'lonta sleeps in a gown, has breasts, wears makeup and is currently housed at Buckingham Correctional Center.
She's been hospitalized numerous times, close to death, due to attempts to self castrate. She's alleged for years, a transgender woman in a men's prison makes her an easy target.
"You treat me just like a female, but you don't house me with females. You're dangling the carrot in front of the rabbit. You put me at substantial risk for assault," said De'lonta.
Yet, it's a female correctional officer De'lonta accuses of sexual abuse and threats. She alleges the officer requested that she be named her contact liaison so she could keep in close proximity with the inmate.
De'lonta talked about the alleged inappropriate touching, involving correctional officer Sarah Pruitt, in an interview in 2011.
"She reached toward me, between my legs, and touched me. I said, 'that don't work.' She made the comment, 'I'll make it work.'"
Virginia D.O.C. declined to comment, citing pending litigation.
We obtained Pruitt's response to the allegations, in which she denies fondling or groping De'lonta. She denies coming to her cell. She denies verbally reprimanding other inmates to stay away from De'lonta and Pruitt says she did not violate De'lonta's civil rights.
According to court documents, Sarah Pruitt tried to get the lawsuit thrown out, arguing qualified immunity as her defense.
The ACLU says it's significant that district judge James Turk wants a trial.
The alleged sexual assault may be an 8th amendment violation.