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Former Houston Inmate Sues Guard Guilty of Sexually Abusing Her

The Federal Detention Center is hidden in plain sight in downtown Houston.EXPAND
The Federal Detention Center is hidden in plain sight in downtown Houston.
Meagan Flynn
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On the night Jessica says she was raped by a prison guard at the Federal Detention Center in downtown Houston, she had only four days left of her sentence before she was released. (She requested that we not use her real name.)

It had been about six weeks since she cut off a consensual relationship with a prison guard named Samuel Hawkins and began resisting his advances, she said. But on the night of November 15, 2015, Hawkins came to her cell and told her to come with him to drop off a tissue box on the male floor, where she knew one of the inmates. Hawkins "paraded her around," said Jessica's attorney, Bill Underwood. And when he returned her to her own cell, seeming jealous of the attention from other men, Jessica says he told her,  "We're gonna have our first real fight tonight," before raping her.

Hawkins pled guilty to sexual abuse of a ward in federal court and was sentenced to five months in prison, five months on house arrest and five years of probation. DNA tests had validated Jessica's outcry after she confided in a female guard who replaced Hawkins on the next shift, and Jessica was taken to the medical unit, Underwood said.

Now, Jessica is suing Hawkins and the federal government for $10 million over the incident.

"He was somebody that was supposed to protect me and keep me safe," Jessica said. "What he did completely changed my whole life, and everybody that knows me will say the same thing. They always ask me, why aren't you ever happy anymore? What's wrong with you? I don't know how to respond. What do I tell them?"

Jessica was incarcerated at the Federal Detention Center for four and a half years for payroll check fraud conspiracy. She says she met Hawkins after he intervened in a fight she had gotten into with another inmate — misconduct that got her sent to segregation. From that point on, Hawkins often visited her cell and chatted her up, at first spending most of the time talking about how another inmate "broke his heart," Jessica said. "That's how we bonded."

Jessica said things changed after she found out she wasn't the only one. (The Federal Detention Center in Houston would not say whether other inmates had ever complained of inappropriate conduct from Hawkins and would not answer any other questions because of pending litigation.)

"As time went on, I started to realize I was more emotionally invested in the situation and I realized he was more sexually driven," Jessica said. "Even then, I didn't pull away from him. He was all I had in there."

Jessica said she finally decided to put an end to the relationship after other inmates began confronting her about it and threatening physical fights. With only a month or so until her early release, any other misconduct reports would have jeopardized her good time, she said, and so she began refusing Hawkins.

On the night of November 14, the night before Hawkins visited her cell a last time, he wrote up Jessica's cellmate and moved her to segregation, and so Jessica was alone, according to the lawsuit.

"I was scared to tell on him," Jessica said. "I knew I would have to tell the whole story from the beginning, and I was putting myself at risk of getting a misconduct report and then having to stay in prison longer. But I was in so much shock. I just couldn't let it go. I couldn't let him do that to me."

Hawkins's attorney in the criminal case, David Bires, said that Hawkins is the real victim here.

Asked why that is, given he was the one with the badge, Bires said, "I don't think he was the one with the power and the badge. Yes, he violated a federal statute. Yes, it's akin to statutory rape — you have a classification of persons who are protected. Yes, he violated the federal statute because of his status. But I think the complaining witness went out of her way to set him up like a bowling pin."

Bires added: "He was the one who made the dumb decision to succumb to the entreaties of the complaining witness."

Jessica said relationships she has attempted to have with men after her release from prison have collapsed, because she is reluctant to have sex. It reminds her of Hawkins.

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