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Groper Loose in Work Release, Woman Says

SAN JOSE (CN) - A supervisor in a county work release program assaulted and sexually battered a woman and threatened to send her back to court if she squealed, the woman claims in court.

Maria Mendoza sued Santa Clara County, several officials in its Department of Correction, top officials in its County Fairgrounds Management Corp., and the man she claims assaulted her, Michael McBride, "a supervisor over participants in Santa Clara County's Weekend Work Program," in Federal Court.

The Santa Clara County Superior Court sentenced Mendoza in November 2011 to 30 days in jail for driving with a suspended license. The court allowed her to serve out that time by participating in the county's Weekend Work Program, for low-risk offenders, she says. Mendoza says she was assigned to work for the Santa Clara Fairgrounds Management Corp., doing maintenance work.

Mendoza says she had been in the program and done the same assignment for a similar conviction two years earlier. Her supervisor was Michael McBride who, she says, tried to get "back massages" from her.

McBride was still the fairgrounds supervisor when Mendoza returned for her second tour in 2011-2012. This time, she says, he assaulted and sexually battered her.

"On numerous occasions and repeatedly during the months of November and December 2011, and January and February 2012, while plaintiff was performing her assigned duties at the fairgrounds, defendant McBride used his position as plaintiff's supervisor at the fairgrounds to subject her to unwanted touching in or around her chest area, neck, groin and buttocks, sexual gestures, vulgar and abusive language," and other "inappropriate" behavior, the complaint states.

One time McBride followed her into the women's bathroom and held her against her will, Mendoza says.

"While plaintiff was standing alone in front of a mirror washing her hands in the bathroom, defendant McBride came up behind plaintiff and put his arms around her, embracing her, holding her, placing his hands on her chest and attempted to kiss her," the complaint states.

"Plaintiff said 'no.' While trying to kiss plaintiff, defendant McBride said, 'Oh come on, just one kiss.' Plaintiff told defendant McBride that she had a boyfriend. Defendant McBride replied, 'I'm not jealous.' At the same time, defendant McBride thrust his groin into plaintiff's buttocks area with his erect penis, attempting to make physical contact with plaintiff's buttocks, which she resisted."

Mendoza claims McBride had discretion to dismiss participants from the program, which, in effect, would force them to serve out their time in jail.

"Defendant McBride announced to all the participants of the Weekend Work Program with words to this effect: 'I'm a cool guy, but don't fuck with me or I will send you back to court. I don't care; you're the one who will go back to court,'" the complaint states. "Later, defendant McBride threatened to dismiss plaintiff and another female participant from the Weekend Work Program if they did not tolerate his unwanted advances."

Mendoza says she endured the assaults, fearing she would be sent to jail and would have no one to care for her two children, until a male participant told her she should report the attacks. She claims McBride's manhandling exacerbated problems she has from a troubled past, which include seeing a close friend murdered in 2009.

She claims McBride's abuse pushed her over the edge, increasing her insomnia and nightmares. She says it increased her depression, affected her relationship with her boyfriend, family and friends, and has caused her to quit her job and seek mental health treatment. She is on prescribed medication and says she has contemplated suicide.

Mendoza seeks punitive damages for cruel and unusual punishment, violation of the equal protections, assault, battery, sexual battery, false imprisonment, negligence and violation of California's Business & Professions code.

She also wants the defendants ordered to train people "delegated to carry out penological functions."

She is represented by Michael Hale, with Liuzzi Murphy Solomon & Aikens, of Scotts Valley.

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