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New Mexico Jail Prisoners Raped by Judge and Guards Settle for $890,000

On June 3, 2004, ten female prisoners who were allegedly raped by a New Mexico judge and jail guards settled their lawsuit for $890,000.

The plaintiffs, who had been confined in the Española City Jail, claimed municipal judge Charles Maestas raped them after they appeared in his courtroom. The victims said Maestas forced imprisoned women to have sex with him in exchange for releasing them from jail or reducing their sentences. Maestas reportedly molested some of the women in his chambers, in his truck, at his home, and at the jail.

The women further contended that the rapes were facilitated by city officials and guards at the jail, who also sexually assaulted some of them. Eight of the victims alleged they were forced to perform sex acts on at least one guard, and four others claimed they were raped on several occasions by different guards. One women claimed that when she tried to retrieve an impounded automobile, the former judge asked her to run off with him for the weekend. When she refused, Maestas had cops arrest her boyfriend on an outstanding warrant.

Maestas was ultimately convicted on five counts of rape and sentenced to a whopping three years in prison.

The women sued the City of Espanola and a number of city and jail officials in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Racketeering In Corrupt Organizations Act, and for assault, battery, and infliction of emotional distress. (The individual defendants included Maestas and jail guards Isaac Pana, Christopher Duran, Tarra1 Seaboy, Moises Peña, Juan Baca, Juan Valdez, Juan Arre1lano, Avaristo Lopez, Daniel Sanchez, Abraham Baca, and Chris Archuleta.) The women also alleged that complaints had been lodged over several years, but other than firing a few guards, the city failed to investigate them.
The parties settled before trial for $890,000. The women were represented by attorney George T. Geran of Santa Fe, New Mexico. See: Ortiz v. Maestas, USDC D NM, Case No. CIV 031169 CIV 03-239.

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Related legal case

Ortiz v. Maestas