Transgender prison inmate assaulted by cellmate in Arizona gets $10K judgment in civil rights suit

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — A transgender woman who was assaulted by a male inmate while housed in a men’s unit at an Arizona penitentiary has won a $10,000 judgment in a federal civil rights lawsuit.

Grace Pinson, 38, was listed as Jeremy Pinson in court documents and represented herself in a four-day bench trial in a Tucson federal court.

She was seeking nearly $300,000 in damages.

U.S. District Judge Rosemary Marquez closed the case on June 20 and awarded Pinson $10,000 “for her physical injuries, her pain and suffering and her emotional distress arising from her physical injuries.”

In court documents, Pinson said her cellmate attempted to rape her in July 2019 and then allegedly beat her with closed fists for several minutes.

Pinson was taken to a hospital for treatment of nasal bone fractures.

Marquez found that the prison staff didn’t know beforehand that Pinson’s cellmate was threatening her.

But the judge said the Tucson penitentiary was negligent in failing to ensure that Pinson’s cell had a functioning duress alarm to notify staff of emergencies.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons said in a statement Wednesday that the agency “does not comment on matters of litigation” for privacy, safety and security reasons.

“The FBOP takes seriously our duty to protect the individuals entrusted in our custody, as well as maintain the safety of correctional employees and the community,” the statement added. “We make every effort to ensure the physical safety and health of the individuals confined to our facilities through a controlled environment that is secure and humane.”

Pinson was accused of writing threatening letters to politicians and a federal judge in Oklahoma and was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison in 2007.

On her online blog, Pinson said she was transferred from a Minnesota prison to the high-security U.S. Penitentiary in Tucson after filing a lawsuit seeking “gender-affirming surgery.”