ACLU of New Mexico files lawsuit on behalf of Albuquerque woman who was sexually assaulted by her parole officer

ALBUQUERQUE, NM—Today, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico filed a civil rights lawsuit against the New Mexico Corrections Department and Gordon Chavez, a former probation and parole officer who sexually assaulted a woman under his supervised release. Chavez pleaded guilty to a civil rights violation against parolee Susie Zapata and was sentenced in federal court this week to serve 18 months in prison for his crimes.

“The public entrusts parole officers with the very important task of helping people rehabilitate and reintegrate back into society after incarceration,” said ACLU-NM Legal Director Laura Schauer Ives. “Former officer Chavez betrayed our client and the public trust by using his position of tremendous power and authority to abuse and humiliate a person he was supposed to be helping. We cannot tolerate this kind of misconduct by law enforcement officers.”

Chavez began sexually harassing her with inappropriate questions and comments soon after he began supervising her. Chavez’s conduct steadily progressed in its severity, culminating with explicit groping and sexual assault of Ms. Zapata, who feared that if she did not comply she would lose her probation and parole.

The FBI became involved after Zapata decided to come forward, and federal agents helped Zapata record Chavez admitting to the assault in a subsequent meeting. After the admission, agents arrested Chavez.

The lawsuit filed by the ACLU of New Mexico on Zapata’s behalf, alleges that former officer Chavez violated Zapata’s constitutional rights and alleges negligence on the part of the New Mexico Corrections Department for their failure to provide adequate information and resources for probationers to report parole officer misconduct.

A full copy of the legal complaint can be read here:

ACLU-NM Legal Director Laura Schauer Ives and Cooperating Attorney Nicole Moss represent the plaintiff in this lawsuit.