Miami-Dade County

Woman, mistakenly jailed as a man, files lawsuit in Miami

Fior Pichardo de Veloz
Fior Pichardo de Veloz EFE

A Dominican woman who was arrested and mistakenly placed in a holding cell with men is suing the Miami-Dade jail system.

Lawyers for Fior Pichardo de Veloz announced the federal lawsuit Wednesday, saying she was “taunted for more than 10 hours” by male inmates.

Pichardo was arrested in November 2013 at Miami International Airport on a decades-old federal drug warrant. According to her lawyers, she was initially placed into the jail as a woman but a medical evaluation determined that she exhibited “non-traditional male characteristics.”

“After a ‘review’ by a nurse employed by Miami-Dade County, it was then determined that Pichardo had male reproductive organs and she was sent to a male-only facility,” according to the lawsuit. “This identification was outrageously incorrect.”

She repeatedly told jailers she was married with three children and had never gotten a sex-change operation, according to the federal lawsuit filed in Miami.

Pichardo was put in an open cell with 40 men at the Metro West Detention Center. “She was jailed for more than 10 hours among 40 men,” said her attorney, David Kubiliun. “She was being sexually harassed, she was being threatened with rape.”

After jailers realized something was amiss, they moved her to an isolated cell and took “embarrassing” photos of her private parts, her lawyer said. She was eventually moved to federal detention and the charges were dropped after a few months.

Pichardo, 54, is an attorney and local elected official in the Dominican Republic. Pichardo had come to Miami in 2013 to witness the birth of her grandchild when she was taken into custody on an old case she didn’t know was outstanding, her lawyer said.

She has since returned to the Dominican Republic, but the the ordeal has left her shattered. “She is going to need long-term psychiatric care,” Kubiliun said.

A spokeswoman for the Miami-Dade corrections department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.