Investigation: Corrections Officer Alleges Sexual Assault

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBC 6's Willard Shepherd details the story of a Miami-Dade Corrections officer who said she was sexually battered multiple times. (Published Monday, May 12, 2014)

    A South Florida female correctional officer is calling for justice after she says 17 men committed sexual battery upon her inside a Miami-Dade correctional facility in December.

    "I was violated," the woman exclusively told NBC 6.

    NBC 6 has learned that even though the female officer says she was humiliated and suffered other significant injuries and 3 other corrections officers were also hurt, no one running the jails called police for more than two months.

    The alleged assault took place at the pre-trial detention facility near downtown Miami where the woman says she was assaulted when a cell door that should have been closed was opened.

    The guard said that after more than 70 days had gone by she came to believe that Miami-Dade corrections managers were never going to report that she was the victim of a beating and sexual battery. At that point she threatened to break the jail’s chain of command rules and make the police report herself, if her supervisor didn’t call police right then.

    "I was devastated. I was traumatized. I was physically and sexually assaulted," said the woman, who wishes not to be identified.

    Also, in video exclusively obtained by NBC 6, prison guards on the 6th floor of the pre-trial detention center are seen coming in mass on Dec. 30 to gain control of an open housing bay. The officers and inmates square off in the tense confrontation that took place after the alleged sexual attack and fight that also hurt three other guards.

    Held at the facility are men like 23-year-old Derrick Harrell, who is awaiting trial for murder. The female officer pointed to Harrell as the ring leader in the battery on her.

    "You know, I don’t do anything but literally play this incident in my head over and over again," the woman said. "I’m devastated, I feel embarrassed. I’m ashamed, you know."

    The video shows several inmates moving quickly through an open cell door and the internal jail reports obtained by NBC 6 indicate a male officer had opened the door before Harrell started fighting and the other inmates rushed out of the cell.

    The female victim who came to confront Harrell, and multiple sources, said a cell door or another one behind it should have been closed, but were both open and that allowed the inmates to make their way through to the female guard. The woman says she was battling Harrell when the group assaulted her.

    "The door was open and no staff was there to advise the arriving staff of the situation," a supervisor who responded to the area wrote.

    The female guard was rushed to the emergency room and thought police were being called; standard procedure she says to investigate, but that wasn’t the case.

    The guard was away from work about 60 days and upon her return gave managers more information in an official report.

    "I was pushed, punched... in my head, face, neck... abdomen and back; the inmates began to grab my vaginal area, breast, and buttocks," she said in the report. "I was kicked in the vaginal area and groped by several inmates. While I was being sexually assaulted... I thought I was about to be gang raped."

    "We have protocols and policies when it comes to incidents, and they failed to act," the woman told NBC 6.

    Ultimately, the victim threatened to call Miami-Dade Police if her supervisor didn't, and on Saturday, March 15, at 2:30 a.m., police were notified, 73 days after the alleged attack.

    She told officers what she thought would have instantly been brought to their attention in December, and although she wasn't sure which additional inmates attacked and groped her she provided a list of inmates' names that were in the incident.

    Corporal Corey Barney heads an association representing correctional officers.

    "Anytime you have an incident where there were alleged assaults on staff, the police department should be involved," Barney said. "The department either attempted to cover this situation up or at the very least failed to properly investigate the situation and to follow protocol."

    The very next day, after police did find out, Harrell was arrested for battery on a law enforcement officer. As to the inmates seen rushing back into the housing area, the jail’s disciplinary reports show 16 inmates "exited their cell without proper authorization."

    "Clearly, from all indications we are talking about multiple perpetrators," the female officer said. "I can’t even imagine this to happen to another officer."

    The guard too is calling for the state attorney to investigate why the police weren’t called. Harrell entered a not guilty plea. The woman wants the other inmates she says attacked her to also be prosecuted.

    As for the corrections department, the interim director, Marydell Guevara, denied all of NBC 6's attempts to speak to her after multiple requests and even asked the Mayor’s office to aid in getting a chance to speak to her.