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$15,000 Settlement in New Mexico Jail Rape Case Based on Polygraph Results

by Matt Clarke

When New Mexico state prisoner Rhiannon Montoya was 36, she was incarcerated at the Rio Arriba County Jail. There she met guard Orlando Ulibarri, whom she accused of sexually assaulting her. Montoya complained about Ulibarri, who was subsequently fired for bringing contraband into the jail and possessing a controlled substance. After she arrived at the women’s prison in Grants, Montoya filed a pro se lawsuit in state court regarding the sexual assaults. The case was removed to federal court.

Montoya alleged that, while her sexual assault was forcible, Ulibarri exchanged drugs and other contraband for sex with other female prisoners. Ulibarri allegedly threatened to send her back to the Gallup jail, where she previously had been attacked by other prisoners, if she told anyone about the sexual assault. After he was fired, Montoya was reportedly harassed by other prisoners who blamed her for his termination.

In October 2016, the county agreed to settle the lawsuit but made the amount of the settlement contingent on Montoya’s performance during a polygraph test. The questions asked during the test and the various settlement amounts offered were kept confidential, but according to Rio Arriba County Manager Tomas Campos, “on several key questions, she didn’t pass.”

Although the charges against Ulibarri were fourth-degree felonies, they were dropped in November 2013, three months after being filed. See: Montoya v. Board of Co. Commissioners for Rio Arriba County, U.S.D.C. (D. NM), Case No. 1:16-cv-00253-JCH-GBW. 

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Related legal case

Montoya v. Board of Co. Commissioners for Rio Arriba County