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Texas County Jail Settles Sex Assault Suits For Undisclosed Sum

On December 22, 2006, Goliad County, Texas, agreed to settle with a prisoner who claimed she was raped by a guard at the county?s jail in September 2001. Under the agreement the county will pay a confidential amount to the victim and the Sheriff will make improvements to the jail?s existing policies. This settlement was concurrent with another lawsuit against the county alleging sexual assault against the same defendants, including the alleged rapist.

Plaintiff Leticia Vaquera, 33 at the time of the settlement, claimed she was raped in 2001 by a guard while imprisoned at the jail for violating her probation on a state drug charge. According to Vaquera the alleged rapist guard ordered her to clean the medical room. As she was folding clothes on the examining table, she claimed, the guard entered the room and locked the door behind him. Vaquera said he came up behind her, pulled down her pants, and raped her.
Afterward the guard laughed and ordered her back to her cell, telling her she better not tell anyone. Vaquera showered and returned to her cell where she laid on her bed and cried as the guard listened to her on the intercom.

Five years later, Vaquera sued the County and Sheriff Robert De La Garza in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. She claimed the county?s policies and procedures, or lack thereof, fostered a sexually charged environment in which rules were ignored. Female prisoners were placed only under the supervision of male guards who, along with male jail trustees who had out of cell privileges, sexually harassed them.

While Vaquera?s case was pending, the trial in another case in the same court, Sanchez v. Goliad County, USDC SD TX, Case No. 6:04-CV-00125, and against the same defendants and alleging rape by the same guard, settled on the second day of trial for an undisclosed sum. The agreement with Vaquera was concurrent with that settlement. At the time of the settlement Vaquera was imprisoned on a federal conviction for smuggling marijuana.

Vaquera was represented by Rex Easley Jr. of the Victoria, Texas, law firm Cole, Cole & Easley, and Jeffry Avant and Elliot Mitchell of Avant and Mitchell in Austin. All three attorneys acted pro bono. See: Vaquera v. Goliad County, USDC SD TX, Case No. 6:06-CV-00089.

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Related legal case

Sanchez v. Goliad County