Transgender inmate loses abuse case

Published: Jul. 19, 2013 at 3:10 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 29, 2013 at 3:10 AM EDT
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A major development in the case of a transgender female inmate, here in Virginia.

Ophelia De'lonta, the same inmate who's seeking sex change surgery-paid for by taxpayers-spent two days this week in federal district court, testifying that she was sexually abused by a prison guard. The jury dismissed the claim...and didn't take very long to do it.

Attorney A. Pierre Jackson, representing the former prison guard, says the sex abuse allegation was Ophelia's way to get money for the gender reassignment surgery. He says his client, Sarah Pruitt, is happy, humble, and relieved the jury dismissed the claim.

Transgender Virginia inmate Ophelia De'lonta represented herself before the all white, four women, three men jurors who listened to two days of testimony and reached a verdict in just five minutes. NBC12 asked Attorney Jackson if they took the sex abuse allegations against his client seriously or were they repulsed by the transgender female prisoner.

"The decorum in the courtroom was with the utmost respect for Ophelia...even though Ophelia is a born male, we at each instance tried to address her as female," said Attorney Jackson.

Ophelia has been hospitalized many times, close to death, after attempts to self castrate. She's alleged for years, placing her in a men's prison makes her a target for abuse. Ophelia told us about the alleged inappropriate touching at Buckingham Prison, involving female 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," she said.

Attorney Jackson says Ophelia lives in a world of make believe and the jury just didn't buy it.

"She suggested that my client used the correctional center as her personal playground, very dramatic language. We know, just common sense, if a correctional officer were to engage in that kind of behavior on a regular basis they wouldn't have lasted that long. She exaggerates and I think the jury didn't believe anything she had to say," Jackson explained.

Ophelia argued her 8th amendment right to be protected from cruel and unusual punishment was violated. Although Ophelia represented herself, Judge Turk allowed his law clerk to help her with procedural matters. Jackson says Ophelia had no witnesses, no medical evidence and the case was dismissed.

"I suppose one of the reasons she was seeking money damages was a backdoor way to get money to have the sex change reassignment surgery performed," Attorney Jackson said.
Ophelia De'lonta can appeal the jury verdict. She has 30 days to file a notice of appeal with the court. The former correctional officer is on disability. She left D.O.C. in 2011.

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