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Federal lawsuit filed against Dimmit Co. for sexual assault of inmates

September 11, 2018


CARRIZO SPRINGS - Audrey Hamell and Kayla Rocha, while detained in the Dimmit County Jail, allege they were both sexually assaulted by a jailer, Former Detention Officer Marco Luevano.  The women have filed a federal lawsuit in San Antonio claiming violations of federal Civil Rights laws, assault and false imprisonment.

The salacious facts alleged in the suit are that Luevano attempted to groom Hamell by offers of additional soap, headphones, coffee and other items.  Luevano, allegedly with the knowledge and consent of the Sheriff moved Hammel into a solo cell where he would sexually assault her.  Also alleged was that other detention officers would “stand as lookout” while he assaulted Hammel in exchange for Luevano acting as lookout when other detention officers wished to watch other female inmates take showers.

The suit further alleges Luevano also began bringing Rocha gifts and without request deposited money into her commissary account, then claiming that “she owed him for it”.  This was a precursor for sexual assaults including one alleged event where Rocha was awakened in the middle of the night by Luevano staring at her.  Luevano was indicted for an offense caught on video tape in which Luevano grabbed Rocha’s breasts.  

After indictment, the suit alleges that other male detention officers began to retaliate against female prisoners and the jail video cameras then began to allegedly “fail” for extended periods of time, during which time retaliatory events would occur.

Notably, the suit claims that during the time of the alleged sexual assaults, Luevano was already under criminal indictment for tampering with government documents to hide his failure to properly monitor a suicidal inmate arrested for driving while intoxicated. This male inmate, while supposedly under Luevano’s watch, was left alone, allowing enough unsupervised time to kill himself in Dimmit County custody.

The suit alleged that under federal law, these assaults are part of a long line of improper treatment of women in Dimmit County custody, including violations arising to the level of violating the United States  Constitution.

Hamell and Rocha are represented by a legal team of civil rights lawyer Charles H. Peckham; civil litigator and former state prosecutor Mary A. Martin, and criminal litigator and former federal prosecutor Larry D. Eastepp, all of Houston, Texas.

“Dimmit County has engaged in this practice of allowing sexual assaults and hiding them for years and violating Federal Law,” Peckham explains, “Those persons involved and the County will be brought to Justice”. 

“The County must be held accountable for their actions,” said former Assistant US Attorney Eastepp.  “I spent many years investigating corruption in the ranks of local government, including in South Texas, and that experience taught me that this kind of case has a real impact on those least able to protect themselves if those officials legally responsible for keeping inmates safe are allowed to be constitutionally derelict in their duties. This is doubly true when elected and appointed officials with responsibility for monitoring those in their employment, abdicate their duties by not ensuring the jail environment is safe and secure for any and all inmates. The founders of this country fled despots who used jailing and abusing citizens a part of government, and no doubt those founders wanted to ensure that such actions would not take place under our Constitution.”

Charles H. Peckham of the Houston-based law firm of Peckham Martin PLLC is Board Certified in Labor and Employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.  No stranger to high profile cases, Peckham has worked as the civil attorney for Dr. Conrad Murray, the doctor accused of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Michael Jackson and with his law partner, Mary. A. Martin also obtained a 7-figure resolution for nationally-syndicated radio host and comedian, George Willborn, in a race-based discrimination matter.  He recently received a $7,500,000.00 award for the family of a teen who was killed in Dallas. Peckham and Martin concentrate in many areas of litigation.

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