A Los Angeles resident undergoing a sex change filed a $10-million federal lawsuit Thursday, alleging that Los Angeles law enforcement officers sexually abused and humiliated her and then stood by as she was brutally attacked by jail inmates.
The suit was filed in U.S. District Court by Alfonso (Rosio) Melgoza, 34, who has begun sex change procedures, against unnamed members of the Los Angeles Police Department and Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
Sheriff's and police officials refused to comment on the lawsuit.
Attorneys for Melgoza, who prefers to be described as a woman, said she was preparing to take a bath on the afternoon of June 11, when two Los Angeles police officers entered her Silver Lake apartment without a warrant and ordered her out of the bathroom.
Melgoza--who has breast implants and male genitals--claims she was forced to stand nude for 10 to 15 minutes in front of the officers and two of her acquaintances before being arrested for allegedly stealing "papers" from an employer.
One of the police officers allegedly fondled Melgoza, according to her attorney, Benjamin Schonbrun. "All the time, (the officer was) making lewd comments to her about her sexual orientation," he said, contending that the same officer later sexually propositioned Melgoza in the squad car.
Charges against Melgoza for stealing documents eventually were dropped after the papers were found by the business owners. But, before being released, she was re-booked for allegedly failing to appear in court on an unrelated petty-theft charge.
According to the lawsuit, LAPD placed her in the custody of sheriff's deputies, who strip-searched her in a Hall of Justice holding cell in front of 60 male inmates. Then, dressing her in an orange jumpsuit signifying that she is a homosexual, the deputies left her in the cell, where she was attacked by inmates who tried to rape her, the suit alleged.
She was "brutally victimized no more than 10 feet away from several county deputies who failed to intervene," Schonbrun said. He said one of her breasts was injured and a front tooth was knocked loose during the attack.
Melgoza did not file a complaint with either the Police Department or the Sheriff's Department out of fear she would be harassed, Schonbrun said.
"We believe had she not been a transvestite, she would have been treated differently by Los Angeles County police officials," Schonbrun said. "We intend to vindicate her rights in a court of law, not only for Rosio but for many others of different sexual orientations who reside in Los Angeles."
Police Chief Daryl F. Gates and County Sheriff Sherman Block were named as defendants in the civil suit, along with 200 unnamed officers and deputies.