By CHRISTOPHER SHERMAN - Associated Press - 07/30/2014.
“McALLEN, Texas (AP) - A woman who says she was sexually assault by a Border Patrol agent guarding her at a South Texas hospital has filed a federal lawsuit against him, alleging he violated her constitutional rights.
The woman had crossed from Mexico into the U.S. without legal permission in April 2013 and was pulled from a bus at the Border Patrol checkpoint in Falfurrias, according to the lawsuit, filed Friday in Brownsville by attorney Javier Maldonado on her behalf. The Associated Press does not generally identify people who allege sexual assault.
While in custody at the Border Patrol station, the woman tripped on a blanket and injured her arm, according to the complaint. She underwent two surgeries at a Corpus Christi hospital and was guarded by Border Patrol agents.
The woman says in the complaint that she woke up on April 28, 2013, to find agent Philip Westerman sexually assaulting her while legs were in restraints on the hospital bed. Another attempted assaulted later in the day was interrupted when another agent entered the room, the lawsuit says.
The woman later told a nurse that she had been assaulted. Police responded and a detective took a towel the woman had saved.
According to a Corpus Christi police affidavit, Westerman told investigators he had no sexual contact with the woman, but that he had masturbated in her bathroom after she aroused him. He repeated that denial Wednesday through an attorney.
Westerman was arrested in May 2013 on a sexual assault charge, but nearly a year later a Nueces County grand jury declined to indict him and the case was closed. Prosecutor Lorena Whitney said several weeks later that the grand jury proceedings were confidential and she did not know the reasoning behind the decision to not issue an indictment.
Border Patrol spokesman Omar Zamora said Wednesday that Westerman remained on unpaid indefinite suspension pending an administrative investigation into the woman’s allegations.
Rey Merino, the lawyer who represented Westerman during the criminal investigation, said Wednesday after speaking with him that Westerman was disappointed the case had resurfaced. Merino said he was not representing Westerman in the civil lawsuit but had received permission to comment on his behalf.
“Obviously he denies any sexual assault of this lady,” Merino said. “This is embarrassing to him and his family.”
The lawsuit says the woman was deported to Mexico before the investigation was completed.
Merino relayed that Westerman said Wednesday that the Nueces County district attorney had the case for nearly a year and ultimately the grand jury decided not to indict.
Read more: www.washingtontimes.com