For three years, Veloz Fior De Pichardo has lived with a mission to prove to the world she’s a woman.
But that’s not what staff at Miami-Dade Corrections initially thought when Pichardo was booked on Nov. 4, 2013.
They concluded Pichardo was a man and placed her with the male population where she stayed for almost 24 hours before they realized the mistake.
“I’m a woman,” said Pichardo. “I have three children.”
Pichardo is now breaking her silence from her home in the Dominican Republic where she lives and works as an attorney and political leader. She was surrounded by her family Tuesday afternoon as she described the terrifying experience of being housed with male inmates.
She feared for her life worried she’d be physically attacked, even raped.
“When I was there [county jail], I saw some of the men rushing to the bathroom actually naked,” Pichardo said.
Since the ordeal, Pichardo has found herself having to prove she was born a female.
She shared photos of her as a young girl, teen and young woman in her early 20s – a lawyer rising up the political ranks in her Dominican province – eventually a grandmother.
That’s what brought Pichardo to Miami three years ago. She landed at Miami International Airport with the plans to travel to the hospital to see her newly-born grandchild. But authorities held her on a warrant from a 20-year old federal drug charge. She thought the case had been resolved years ago.
And somehow when the mug shot was taken by Miami-Dade Corrections, correctional officers concluded that Pichardo was a man.
“The guard told me that good luck,” she said. “I might not see you tomorrow. She said that to me in Spanish.”
Pichardo is now suing Miami-Dade County and the corrections department in federal court alleging the incident violated her civil rights. She’s asking for $5 million in damages.
Corrections department officials declined to comment for this story.
David Kubiliun is one of the Miami lawyers representing her.
“She shouldn’t have been stopped,” Kubiliun said. “She had been traveling in and out of the United States for the past 20 years. In fact, her daughter was born in the U.S.”
Pichardo’s attorneys say they have uncovered more information about why she never should have been stopped in the first place.
The NBC 6 Investigators obtained the official correspondence from inside the TGK jail facility that shows how then inmate Pichardo was first identified as a man and later a woman.
When she arrived – the intake officer marked M for male. Then a nurse was brought in to screen Pichardo and determined that the individual had “male sexual reproductive organs” and was a “male inmate by birth”.
This decision sent her inside an open bay facility housing male inmates. She said there was not even a private toilet.
After her family expressed outrage, documents show that correction officials sent two other nurses to examine Pichardo.
This time, the nurses determined that Pichardo is a female and she was removed from the male population.
The experience has left Pichardo traumatized.
“My life changed. Because I am the laughing stock,” the attorney and politician said. “In my county, I have a political career and I am well known.”