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Transgender Woman Loses Jail Abuse Claims

(CN) - A transgender woman cannot pursue federal claims that she suffered horrific abuse when she was jailed for reporting that she had been robbed, a federal judge ruled.

Though Patti Hammond Shaw can still pursue claims under state law, U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle predicted that they will likely fail.

Shortly before filing her robbery complaint, Shaw, 44, had undergone reassignment surgery and legally changed her sex to female.

On May 24, 2009, she dialed 911 to report that she thought her friends had stolen her purse from her house in Washington, D.C.

Though Shaw found her purse before police arrived, she claimed to have been the victim of a robbery that occurred later that night. Her second 911 call claimed that two young men robbed her while she was in her front yard with her dogs.

Two Metropolitan Police Department officers arrived at her house around midnight, skeptical of her allegations. Metro Detective Kevin Tighe arrived in about 15 minutes, and Shaw said that he was "rude."

"Instead of asking about the incident," the detective "questioned her about personal information such as whether she was married, who lived with her and whether she takes medication," according to Shaw's complaint.

Days later, Tighe allegedly told Shaw over the phone that he put out a warrant for her arrest, listing her as male, charging her with making a false police report. Shaw says she turned herself into Sixth District Police Department on June 18, 2009, at 4 a.m.

When metro officers ran Shaw's fingerprints and learned she was previously a man named Melvin Hammond, they allegedly ignored proof of her legal sex change and put her in men's lockup.

During about four hours of incarceration, the male inmates allegedly harassed Shaw, asking to see her vagina, breasts and buttocks. As she was being removed from her cell, Shaw said one male inmate touched her buttocks.

In the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service later, she says officers did not accept her answer when they asked for her name. The marshals allegedly wanted Shaw to reply with her "real" name, Melvin, even after she produced a legal ID listing her female name and gender.

Shaw said one male deputy then subjected her to an invasive strip search.

"In the course of his search, which lasted about five minutes, that deputy marshal groped plaintiff's breasts, buttocks and between her legs repeatedly and excessively," according to the court's summary of Shaw's complaint. "During this time, deputy marshals also verbally harassed plaintiff, making jokes about her breasts and gender such as, 'those must be implants, because hormones don't make breast stand up so perky like that' and 'he's the best I've ever seen.'"

Around 8 a.m., the marshals transferred her to a traffic court holding cell with about 30 men who allegedly touched, harassed and propositioned her. The men allegedly shook their penises at her and threatened to punch her if she did not expose her breasts.

Despite her protests, Shaw says she was forced to stay there until late afternoon and was forced to urinate in a cup because officers denied her bathroom access.

Shaw pleaded guilty to the false-report charge in return for a non-jail sentence.

On Nov. 24, 2009, Shaw sued the metro officers and deputy marshals for assault, battery, emotional distress, and negligence. She later added a claim for cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

On Friday, Judge Huvelle dismissed all of those claims on procedural grounds, and remanded the remaining state-law claims to Superior Court.

The judge predicted that those claims will also fail, quoting the case Agudas Chasidei Chabad of U.S. v. Russian Federation. "Certainly, if the federal claims are dismissed before trial, ... the state claims should be dismissed as well," the ruling states.

Shaw's attorney did not immediately respond to phone and email requests for comment.

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