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Private Transport Company Settles Female Prisoner's Sexual Assault Suit

Private Transport Company Settles
Female Prisoner's Sexual Assault Suit

Extraditions International, Inc., now
defunct, and its successor company, American Extraditions, Inc., settled with a female prisoner who claimed she had been sexually harassed and sexually assaulted by a company guard during transport.

Robin Darbyshire, a 43 year-old female resident of Nevada was extradited to Routt County Jail in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Extraditions International handled the transport under contract to Routt County Jail. Darbyshire was in transit from May 13, 2001, through May 16, 2001, under supervision of guards Richard Almendarez and Darryl Hudnall. The trip passed through parts of five states. At the time of the trip, according to the complaint, the company lacked legally-required insurance and carrier permits. Further, Almendarez, who was armed, had been previously fired from a Texas prison for assaulting a prisoner and not reporting it

Darbyshire claimed that she was cuffed and shackled too tightly almost all of the trip by Almendarez. Her hands were numb from the cuffs. Her boots were cut by the shackles, and her abdomen was chafed raw by the belly chain. She also claims that Almendarez drove the van erratically at high speeds, hitting bumps so hard that prisoners were thrown into the ceiling.

Prisoners were fed only one or two light meals a day. Additional liquids were provided only four times during the trip. Bathroom breaks came only once every ten to twelve hours. Almendarez, though, regularly satisfied his personal needs for food, liquid, and bathroom breaks. When transferring prisoners at jails, Almendarez left the other prisoners in the sweltering van for up to two hours.

During the trip, Almendarez sexually harassed Ms. Darbyshire and the only other female prisoner, Alberta Flores-Brown by calling them "slut" and making crude, sexually suggestive remarks. He threatened sexual violence against the women and to shoot them if they told anyone. When Flores-Brown was transferred to an Arizona jail, she promptly reported the abuse to the jail commander who promptly called Extraditions International. No action was taken.

At a rest stop near Trinidad, Colorado, Almendarez took Darbyshire into the bathroom. There, the 325-pound Almendarez forced Darbyshire to lie on her back on the floor. Uncuffing one hand and her belly chain, Almendarez exposed her breasts and genitals. He pinned her right hand to the floor by stepping on it, then masturbated and ejaculated on her. He told her that if she screamed, he would shoot her and claim she tried to escape.

When the van stopped at Extraditions International's office in Commerce City, Colorado, Darbyshire reported the assault to company manager Ray Pezolt. Pezolt told Almendarez of the complaint but took no action. Back in the van, Almendarez threatened to kill Darbyshire. Darbyshire then reported the assault to Routt County Jail officials. After investigation and medical examination, the Jail canceled its contract with Extraditions International.

Represented by Craig Cowie and David Fathi of the American Civil Liberties Union's National Prison Project and Mark Silverstein of the ACLU Foundation of Colorado, Darbyshire sued Extradition International under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Colorado state law in the U.S. District Court in Colorado. Extraditions International tried unsuccessfully to avoid liability by becoming American Extradition, Inc. Almendarez and Pezolt were also sued. The suit claimed that the company and its agents violated Ms. Darbyshire's Fourth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution. Rather than fight, the defendants chose to settle the suit confidentially for an undisclosed sum of money. See: Darbyshire v Extraditions International, Inc., US DC, D CO, Case No. 02 N 718 (MJW). g

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Related legal case

Darbyshire v. Extraditions International, Inc.