A Dominican grandmother arrested on a decades-old cocaine possession charge said she was placed in an open cell with about 40 male inmates who taunted her in a Miami-Dade jail, her lawyer said.
Veloz Fior de Pichardo, who is an attorney in the Dominican Republic, was coming to Miami for the birth of her grandchild when she was arrested Nov. 4 on a federal warrant for a drug charge filed 25 years ago, her family said. Following her arrest, a medical nurse who examined her concluded that she was a man, and she ended up housed with male inmates at Miami-Dade Corrections’ Metro West Detention Center near Doral.
Pichardo was arrested at Miami International Airport. Her family emphasized that she had no drugs on her at the airport. Her attorney, David Kubiliun, said Pichardo has traveled to the U.S. 20 times over the years and was never stopped by customs officers or police.
Miami-Dade Corrections is investigating how Pichardo ended up being placed with men in a county facility. Her daughter gave birth while she was behind bars Wednesday – so Pichardo now has three children and two grandkids.
"Everybody is now disappointed. But she is a woman, you know,” said her son-in-law, Felix Paredes.
Paredes said they went to the jail telling guards she was a woman but at first no one listened.
"I talked to them to many times – she's woman, she's a woman – and they told me no, this (is) a man," he stated.
A mug shot of Pichardo taken after she was arrested at MIA showed her with shoulder-length hair. She was initially taken to the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center. Internal documents from there obtained by NBC 6 said, "Pichardo was evaluated by medical staff nurse H. It was determined that ... Pichardo has male sexual reproductive organs."
That’s impossible, her family said.
The corrections documents show Pichardo responded to questions about if she changed her sex. She wrote, “(I'm) telling them no. (They're) causing my pressure to elevate, because I was taken to a male jail and I'm a woman. I had to enter the same bathroom. Nobody has abused me physically but psychologically yes.”
Later, after her family complained, two corrections nurses performed an exam and told supervisors that Pichardo was a female.
Pichardo’s family and her lawyer, Kubiliun, both said there is no way that the first nurse really examined her at the jail.
Kubiliun said that when his client was in the open cell with the 40 or so male inmates, they were gesturing with their hands and making vulgar comments to her. She said she was terrified and had nowhere to hide, Kubiliun said.
NBC 6 asked to interview Pichardo, but was told she was too distraught to speak about the episode.
Pichardo was released from the Miami-Dade jail, but remained in federal custody Thursday due to a hold by U.S. Marshals and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Kubiliun met with her at the federal lockup in Miami-Dade on Thursday.
"She was in extreme danger. She told me that she thought for a second she was going to be raped,” Kubiliun said of her time in custody with men. “She was going to be murdered and no one would even know. And I haven't seen one characteristic of a male.”
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