On May 29, 2014, Felipe Santiago Peralez, a former dispatcher with the La Joya Police Department, sexually assaulted the woman for hours in a cell at the La Joya City Jail, she claims in a lawsuit. Though she said she screamed in pain during the assault, no one came to her aid since all the other officers were on patrol, the lawsuit says.
“Peralez began an all-night invasion of plaintiff’s body, by inserting his fingers, hands, and other objects into her buttocks and vaginal areas of plaintiff’s body,” according to the suit, reported first by Courthouse News.
Peralez entered the woman’s cell promising he “would make things right for her if she wanted to use the phone” following her arrest for violating her probation, the complaint says. Peralez proceeded to assault the woman, forcing her to provide oral sex before the encounter was over.
The woman said she told two female officers about the rape, and that other officers viewed surveillance footage of the assault, but no one offered to take her to the hospital for an emergency room examination, which is in fact Texas law for rape investigations.
“On May 30, 2014 [defendant] Lieutenant Ramon Gonzalez reviewed the video recording, questioned plaintiff (A.R.) about the incident from the night before, obtained her statement, offered her a taco, declined her request for medical attention and released her to [defendant] Peñitas police Officer Elizabeth Garza without offering her medical attention or counseling,” the complaint says.
Officer Elizabeth Garza of Peñitas, only three miles from La Joya near the US-Mexico border, came to transport the woman to her arraignment. The woman says she told Garza that she was raped. But Garza only offered grim advice.
“Garza advised her that she should forget all about the incident and go on with her life, because ‘people come up missing all the time in the Valley,'” the complaint states, referring to the Rio Grande Valley and its reputation for violence stemming from illicit drug commerce.
The woman has sued Peralez, the City of La Joya, the city’s current and former police chiefs, the city administrator, and other La Joya police officers, as well as the city of nearby Peñitas, its police chief, and two police officers. Geovani Hernandez, La Joya’s police chief at the time, and city administrator Mike Alaniz discussed the rape on May 30, 2014, the complaint says. Garza informed her police chief, Roel Bermea, but no one attempted to take the assaulted woman to a hospital, the lawsuit says.
Peralez resigned from the La Joya Police Department following the incident. Texas Ranger Robert Garcia later obtained the surveillance footage of the assault and arrested Peralez in March 2015, according to KGBT. In August of 2015, Peralez was charged by a grand jury with three counts of civil rights offenses and one count of official oppression, Courthouse News reported.
He was sentenced to 180 days in a state jail and 30 days in a county jail after pleading guilty to official oppression and one civil rights charge.
The woman has stayed quiet about the assault until now out of fear of reprisal from defendants, the suit says.
“Plaintiff suffered physical pain from intrusions of her vagina and buttocks, loss of weight, concern for the well-being of her children and elderly parents, due to threats made against them by defendants if plaintiff sought recourse regarding the incident,” according to the lawsuit, which seeks $70 million in damages.