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November 4, 2019

GRANTS, NM - Today, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico and cooperating attorney Corinne Holt of Will Ferguson & Associates filed a lawsuit in the Second Judicial District Court on behalf of Jane Doe,* an incarcerated woman who was raped and impregnated by former correctional officer Benny Chee at Western New Mexico Correctional Facility (WNMCF). The ACLU brings the complaint against Chee as well as former WNMCF Warden Roberta Lucero-Ortega, Sergeant Randy Gifford, and Major Gary Trujillo for fostering a culture of sexual abuse at the prison.

“Benny Chee used his power as a correctional officer to repeatedly sexually abuse and rape Jane Doe,” said ACLU of New Mexico attorney and Equal Justice Works Fellow Lalita Moskowitz. “She lives with the trauma of that abuseand the trauma of being impregnated by her rapist and suffering a frightening and painful miscarriageevery day.  The New Mexico Corrections Department had a constitutional, legal, and moral duty to protect her and they failed to fulfill that responsibility in every conceivable way.”

In December 2017, Chee began paying extra attention to Ms. Doe, bringing her into the control room to spend time with her alone, in violation of prison policies. In February, after gaining her trust, Chee sexually abused and raped her on several different occasions. Two months after Chee pled guilty to Criminal Sexual Penetration in the Third Degree, Ms. Doe suffered a miscarriage. 

“Ms. Doe has shown tremendous courage fighting for justice in the face of intimidation and fear,” said Moskowitz.  “We’re inspired by her bravery and we’re determined to do everything in our power to eradicate the culture of sexual violence that has permeated New Mexico correctional facilities.” 

This is the third in a series of lawsuits the ACLU of New Mexico has filed this year on behalf of incarcerated women who suffered sexual abuse at the hands of New Mexico correctional officers. A copy of the complaint is available below.

*The Petitioner’s name has been changed to protect her identity.