News » Crime

Trans Woman's Suit Alleges Sexual Assault by Cops

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday February 10, 2021

DeAnna LeTray
DeAnna LeTray  (Source:DeAnna LeTray/Facebook)

A suit brought by a transgender woman against the police department of Watertown, NY alleges that she was arrested simply for being trans and then subjected to humiliation, excessive force, and sexual assault.

DeAnna LeTray's federal lawsuit names Jefferson County Sheriff Colleen O'Neill and Watertown police chief Charles Donoghue among others, local news channel WWNY TV reports.

The incident took place in September of 2017. The Daily Beast recounts that LeTray had called for help after her ex-wife's landlord allegedly aimed a shotgun at her. But, LeTray says, the police officers who responded treated LeTray as a suspect, accusing her of being "a man dressed like a woman" and arresting her for "criminal mischief" after telling her, "We can't let you walk the streets looking and dressed like that."

Searching LeTray's purse, the officers reportedly found a "small amount" of the party drug MDMA, also known as "molly" or "ecstasy."

"None of the police reports or Jail booking documents indicate that Ms. LeTray was observed exhibiting behavior that would indicate she was trying to hide drugs or any other prohibited item on or in her person," the lawsuit says.

LeTray claims one policeman asked her questions about her genitalia while another officer allegedly said, "You have serious mental problems. You are a guy dressed like a woman."

LeTray claims that officers "made fun of my gender identity and misgendered me every step of the way," and alleges that "jail staff strip searched and sexually assaulted me."

LeTray detailed a harrowing account in which she said police threw her to the ground, ripped her wig from her head, and hog tied her. Officers allegedly announced, "You are going to go to the jail and get strip searched" and said, "You're going to love that."

LeTray says she was subjected to a cavity search, during the course of which her genitals were groped. She also claims that her requests that a female officer conduct the strip search in a private room were denied, and says several officers looked on as the cavity search took place.

"No person's gender identity gives police and jail staff the authority to abuse," LeTray declared.

LeTray is being represented by Legal Services of Central New York and the New York Civil Liberties Union, the Daily Beast said. NYCLU lawyer JP Perry told the news outlet that the ordeal LeTray describes "is an example of the mistreatment transgender women encounter with police and the legal system, not just in this state but across the country."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

Comments on Facebook