An undocumented Mexican immigrant who says he was raped while in custody at the Jefferson County Jail is waiting to see if his case will be heard in court before he is deported. Meanwhile, the alleged incident is calling into question how the jail ensures the safety of prisoners.
Audemio Orozco-Ramirez was taken into custody after a routine traffic stop in Sidney, Montana on October 2nd. As is customary for most undocumented immigrants arrested in the state, he was taken to the Jefferson County Jail to undergo deportation proceedings. Orozco-Ramirez says on his first night he was violently, sexually, assaulted by fellow inmates in his cell pod.
As reported by the Great Falls Tribune’s John S. Adams:
Orozco-Ramirez said that night, or in the very early morning hours the next day, he awoke face down in his jailhouse bunk with multiple inmates on top of him holding him down as at least one inmate raped him.
Orozco-Ramirez said he thought he saw some of the inmates attempting to block the surveillance camera in the corner of the cell, but when he tried to turn his head to face his attackers, someone pushed his face down into the pillow.
Orozco-Ramirez’s attorney, Shahid Haque-Hausrath, worries the Jefferson County Jail is not taking his client’s accusations seriously.
“A month after the sexual assault happened, they still hadn’t interviewed each of the nine people who were in that detention cell with him,” Haque-Hausrath said, adding DNA testing has still not been finished on Orozco-Ramirez’s clothing from that night, which the alleged victim believes is contaminated with semen from his attacker.
Haque-Hausrath faults the jail for not making it easier for Orozco Ramirez, who speaks little English, to report the incident. He had to wait several days before he could talk with a Spanish-speaking official at an Idaho detention facility.
Jefferson County Attorney Matthew Johnson said the jail is still awaiting reports on evidence sent to the state crime lab.
“Until they get us some final analysis and reports, we’re still only able to say the case is being investigated,” he said.
Johnson said a lot of time has been put in tracking down those who were in the cell on the night of the alleged incident. He said even though there are no Spanish-speaking staff members at the jail, Orozco-Ramirez did have access to a telephone.
“If someone comes in the jail and they can’t speak English, I think there’s some effort made to ensure there is adequate communication, access to attorney’s, access to phone calls,” he said.
Johnson said the jail’s video surveillance system shows no evidence of the assault. There is a missing segment of video from about 2AM to 4AM, but Johnson said that comes from the motion-activated camera shutting down during periods when no movement is detected. Haque-Hausrath said the footage starts again at 4 AM with someone coming out of a bathroom.
“At some point, that person had to go into the bathroom,” Haque-Hausrath said. “We don’t believe there was no motion during that time.”
Johnson said the jail spent $5000 having the video surveillance system checked in the wake of the Orozco-Ramirez case.
“The video system was working properly,” Johnson said. “There has been no tampering with it.”