When Fiordaliza Pichardo, an attorney and city councilwoman from Bonao in the Dominican Republic, was detained at the Miami International Airport en route to see the birth of her first grandson on an old New York warrant, she never imagined she would end up in a Miami jail for 10 hours surrounded by at least 40 male inmates.
On Thursday Pichardo’s attorneys filed a federal lawsuit against the Miami-Dade Corrections Department seeking $5 million in damages and an effort to repair her reputation.
Despite the fact that Pichardo, 50, has been married to her husband for 32 years, has three children, and is also a grandmother, a nurse employed by Miami-Dade County Corrections and Rehabilitation Department, examined her and determined that she exhibited “non-traditional male characteristics and male reproductive organs,” and placed Pichardo in an all-male jail cell.
According to the suit, as a correctional officer was placing her in the cell, he said to her in Spanish, “Suerte si te veo viva manaña.” (You’ll be lucky if I see you alive tomorrow.”)
Her attorney, David M. Kubiliun told Fox News Latino that correctional staff asked her repeatedly if she’d had a sex change, and every time she answered no emphatically.
Pichardo reports being sexually harassed and tormented during her 10-hour stay in the jail and fearing she’d be raped or worse. At one point she urinated on herself to avoid using the toilet in front of the men.
Her family wasn’t able to find her for hours. Once they discovered she’d been placed in the male cell, the family told guards she was not a man.
Pichardo’s lawsuit claims she has suffered continued physical and psychological damage from the incident, and she has been under the care of a psychiatrist, affecting her personal and professional life. Since the incident she has neglected to seek re-election to the Bonao city council for fear of further humiliation.
Pichardo was eventually extradited to New York to settle the 1988 warrant, which she believed had been resolved, and returned to the Dominican Republic.
“Back at home they’re teasing her children, saying their mother has a penis," Kubiliun told FNL. "She was an elected official and very well-respected. I can’t imagine this happening to a woman.”
The Miami-Dade Department of Corrections told Fox News Latino that they don’t comment on pending litigation.
“The lady was wronged," her attorney said. "Why or how this could have happened is anyone’s idea. No one can explain it. We think they made a big mistake and then tried to cover it up.”
Rebekah Sager is a writer and editor for FoxNews.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @rebekah_sager.