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|Trans woman alleges abuse by Savannah police, jail officials|
|Written by Dyana Bagby|
|Friday, 12 April 2013 15:00|
A transsexual woman arrested April 7 in Savannah, Ga., is claiming she was harassed by police officers after she was charged with indecent exposure.
A police report from the Savannah Police Department states Ashley Del Valle, who said she was visiting Savannah from New York, had her breasts exposed and nipples showing.
Savannah police and the Chatham County Sheriff's Department deny handling the case unprofessionally.
Del Valle was taken to jail where she said deputies consistently referred to her as "thing," "brotha" and "nigga."
However, the deputy chief of the Chatham County jail, who said Del Valle is "technically a male" and consistently referred to her with a male pronoun, said at all times Del Valle was kept isolated from other male inmates as part of its policy. Del Valle was in jail for three days before being bailed out by her cousin, mother and uncle for $3,500.
"First off, Ashley is still a man," said Roy Harris, deputy chief of the jail. "I think he's had some surgery, breast implants. But technically he is still a male which poses a problem. We do have a policy in place. Typically we put them in isolation."
Del Valle described being in jail in Chatham County as very "traumatic" and said she was "put through hell."
"They didn't know where to put me," she said. "The young men there were out of control. They kept beating on my cell. It was pure torture."
Harris said Del Valle was placed in a booking cell and then an isolation cell and that if Del Valle had complaints they were not voiced while Del Valle was in jail.
"We do take particular caution with inmates such as this," Harris said. "We're a nationally accredited jail and have a policy for this."
Del Valle also disputes that she was exposing her breasts that led to her arrest.
Del Valle, who appeared on an episode of TLC's "NY Ink," said she and her cousin were club hopping and hit popular gay club Club One as well as other clubs before stopping in Ellis Square to decide where to go to eat.
She said many people recognized her from the TV show and she was posing for pictures with tourists.
"I was mingling with people. I was just enjoying everyone," she said. "Then I was sitting down with my cousin and discussing where to go eat. And then it was just kind of blur. They had me on the floor. My heels were off. I was resisting because I was not bothering anyone.
"I was just having good time. They cuffed me. I was screaming. I was petrified. There was no reason behind what they were doing. I was wearing a sheer shirt," she said.
Del Valle was also charged with disorderly conduct.
"I have a flair for fashion but I don't think it's criminal," Del Valle said.
Kevin Clark, who heads up the LGBT advocacy group Georgia Equality chapter in Savannah, said he is helping Del Valle in seeking a civil rights attorney. He said the police department's LGBT liaison is on medical leave.
"This was a horrific situation here in Savannah," Clark said.
Harris said Del Valle is free to file a complaint and it would be investigated by a "robust internal affairs department."
From the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department report:
The 2011 clip of Del Valle from "NY Ink" —
Photo: Ashley Del Valle. (Courtesy photo)
Editor's Note: This story includes a correction to who paid the bail for Del Valle. The bail was paid by her cousin, mother and uncle and not by members of the LGBT community as originally reported.
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