HOUSTON (CN) — A schizophrenic woman claims through her attorney that Texas prosecutors jailed her for a month to testify against her rapist, and charged her with assault after a guard punched her for "loudly pleading with God" to rescue her.
Jane Doe says she had a "mental breakdown" while testifying on Dec. 8, 2015 against the man who choked, raped and sodomized her. She was taken to a Houston hospital, prompting the judge to postpone the trial for several weeks.
She sued Harris County, its Sheriff Ron Hickman, Assistant District Attorney Nicholas Socias, contract jailer Taylor Adams and 40 John Doe employees of the county jail and DA's office on July 18.
She claims Socias obtained an attachment order to detain her as a witness and had her arrested at the hospital, preventing her from going home to Longview, 200 miles north of Houston, to spend the holidays with her cancer-stricken mother.
An attachment order to keep someone in the county to testify is also called a witness bond.
"The family originally was good with obtaining a witness bond. They could not take her, they said. The judge then approved the witness bond," Harris County District Attorney's Office spokesman Jeff McShan said in a statement.
McShan said he could not comment on the lawsuit, but called witness bonds "a common tool" used by prosecutors and defense attorneys.
Doe says the man who arrested her, District Attorney Investigator Brandon Plagens, misled her mother in a text message that she had been transferred to a psychiatric hospital.
Plagens is not a defendant.
Though jailers knew she was mentally unstable, Doe says, they denied her medication and put her in a "pod" with 24 other inmates, all of whom were black.
Some of them taunted Doe about her race and one of them pushed her down and slammed her head into the floor the night of Dec. 23, Doe says.
"Following this brutal attack, jail staff finally moved Jane Doe to a different pod," the complaint states.
Doe says her mother contacted Socias on Christmas Eve, asking if she could post bond so Doe could come home for Christmas, and that Socias falsely told her that "things get could very very bad for her [Doe] legally" if she bonded out and failed to appear to testify.
"This legal advice was improper, misleading, erroneous, and was given in furtherance of the conspiracy to control and dominate Jane Doe by violating her rights," the complaint states. "By giving biased and improper legal advice to Jane Doe's mother, a private citizen, Nicholas Socias further exploited the fact that Jane Doe was unrepresented by counsel."
Her mother's cancer prevented her from visiting her in jail, Doe says, and the jail's phone contractor charged the mother $9.95 each time Doe called her.
Missing home as Christmas and New Year's Day passed, Doe says, the conditions in the overcrowded jail became too much for her.
"On January 8, 2016, while in her cell, Jane Doe suffered an acute psychiatric episode and began loudly pleading with God to come to her rescue," the lawsuit states.
Doe says she became hysterical when defendant Taylor Adams and other guards rushed to her and escalated the situation. Taylor socked her in the eye and the guards slammed her down and handcuffed her as she bawled, Doe says.
To cover up the blow that blackened Doe's eye, Adams persuaded the DA's Office to charge Doe with assault, according to the complaint.
Prosecutors took Doe to court on Jan. 11 to testify against her rapist, who was convicted and sentenced to two life sentences.
Doe says she was finally freed from jail three days later, when the judge released her as a witness, and prosecutors dropped the assault charges against her the same day.
She says her month in the jail destroyed her hopes of recovering from the rape and added to her trauma.
The Harris County jail is being monitored by the Justice Department for a rash of inmate deaths and reports of negligent care for mentally-ill inmates, Doe says, citing reports in the Houston Chronicle.
"Between 2009 and November 2015, Harris County jailers were disciplined more than 120 times for misconduct involving abuse of authority or misuse of force, including beating, kicking and choking inmates, and including 13 instances in which jailers failed to seek medical attention for inmates," the complaint states, citing the Chronicle.
Doe seeks punitive damages for excessive force, malicious prosecution, denial of the right to counsel, defamation, and violations of the Fourth, Sixth and 14th Amendments.
She is represented by Sean Buckley in Houston.
Harris County Sheriff's Office spokesman Ryan Sullivan defended his employer's handling of Doe
"When so ordered by the court, the Sheriff's Office had no authority but to follow the court's order to detain Jane Doe. Doe was housed in the Harris County Jail's female general population. No order to isolate Jane Doe was issued in the court's order to the Harris County Sheriff's Office. Had an order to 'keep separate' been issued, Doe would have been housed in a separation cell," he said in a statement.
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