Investigation underway into possible rape at Hamilton County jail

Published: Jan. 9, 2023 at 9:42 PM EST
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a possible sexual assault while both parties were in custody at the county jail, FOX19 NOW has learned.

The accuser told detectives she was raped by another inmate in her cell earlier this month, court records show. She reported waking up with the accused inmate’s hand over her mouth during the alleged offense.

Part of the investigation focuses on the gender identity of the accused inmate.

The accuser reported being raped in the early morning hours of Jan. 4 by another inmate in her cell “who is a biological male who identifies as a female and is believed to be in some stage of gender transition,” the court record states.

No one has been charged. Neither inmate is still at the county jail.

FOX19 NOW is not identifying the two parties at this point because this remains an ongoing investigation, according to court records.

FOX19 NOW reached out to a spokesperson for the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, which operates the jail.

A sheriff’s spokeswoman responded: “We cannot offer comment at this time as the case is in the early stages and the investigation is ongoing. I hope to have updates sometime this week, and as soon as I can confirm any information, I will send it to you.”

The accuser told a correction officer about the alleged rape and was taken to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center to be examined by a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, court records show.

The accused inmate told detectives when questioned that the alleged assault was not physically possible.

Detectives determined through the investigation the accused inmate’s classification was based on scans taken during the intake process at the jail and a phone call with the medical staff at the accused inmate’s former prison, one that houses male prisoners.

The jail scans were inconclusive, however, the court record shows, and the prison medical staff relayed that the accused inmate was asked to show his private areas to them “on multiple occasions and refused.”

The accused inmate told detectives these classification issues were already worked out previously at the state prison and the classification was female, according to the court record.

A detective asked if anyone in Hamilton County’s facility looked at the “private area” of the accused inmate, who told the detective “no,” the court document reads.

As part of the investigation, the detective and a medical professional “will view and photographically document the private genitalia” of the accused inmate, according to an affidavit.

Another court document shows “photos of male genitalia” were then obtained.

The accused inmate was booked into the Hamilton County jail late last month after being picked up as a violator at large for leaving a local halfway house, according to ODRC.

Hamilton County’s jail booking page on its website listed the accused inmate as a female with a male name.

The state prison system offender website lists the accused inmate as a male with a male name.

The accused inmate is now back in ORDC custody after being released last week from the county jail, transferred to a prison for women, and is currently housed in the infirmary separate from the general prison population, an ODRC spokeswoman said.

The accused inmate will remain at the state prison and serve the remainder of a sentence that expires soon.

We reached out to an attorney who represented the accused inmate in a previous case, but the attorney said they have not spoken in years.

“It’s a very unusual situation, almost unheard of,” says another attorney, Mark Krumbein of Cincinnati.

“The law is clear, gender does not play a factor into the investigation. The basic thing is you can’t have sex with another person without their consent. So that’s a basic that still stands and will always stand.

“And then the other thing is ... can you get a search warrant for checking someone’s genitalia? And I believe, very strongly that the answer - that well, can you get a legitimate search warrant? And I believe the answer is yes.

“I don’t know what the Justice Center’s policies are,” Krumbein said. “It’s really, I don’t know if it’s established in law or not yet. Everything is sort of on the new side.”

ODRC adheres to all applicable policies and procedures, including Federal Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) standards and guidelines, says department spokeswoman JoEllen Smith.

“No ODRC policies were violated in classifying (the accused inmate),” she said.

ODRC is aware of the investigation being conducted by Hamilton County and is abiding by all applicable policies and procedures.”

“Questions regarding the allegations should be directed to the investigatory agency. ODRC is not investigating these allegations,” she said.

ODRC was one of the first states in the country to become dually accredited in both American Correctional Association standards and all PREA standards, in 2016, she added.

“All incarcerated individuals are housed based on their security classification. Pursuant to ODRC policy, when individuals sentenced to ODRC are received at our reception center, they undergo a security classification review and are assigned a security level by our Bureau of Classification.

“After the security level is assigned, they are assigned to a housing unit at another facility and transferred from reception. Gender-related concerns are noted and given serious consideration during the reception and classification process. Additionally, all incoming incarcerated persons undergo a complete medical, dental, and mental health screening per ODRC policy.

“Without addressing specific allegations, incarcerated persons are permitted to refuse medical care. Information regarding an individual’s medical history is not public. Marion Correctional Institution is not a reception center and would not include the mandatory screenings as described above in the reception process.”

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