PLYMOUTH – A Honduran man who says he was beaten in the Plymouth County Detention Center after reporting sexual harassment by a fellow detainee is suing the sheriff's office for refusing to approve a special visa intended for crime victims who work with police.
Michael Acosta-Granados, 20, filed the lawsuit against the Plymouth County Sheriff's Department last month. The sheriff's office has not filed a reply and no court dates have been set.
Acosta-Granados is suing the sheriff for not certifying his claim under a special program called the "U visa," which is reserved for crime victims who cooperate with investigations.
Plymouth is the only jail in the state housing Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees. ICE terminated its contract with Bristol County after the Attorney General's Office found civil rights abuses.
Primary documents: Read the lawsuit by Michael Acosta-Granados over the denial of his U-Visa
ICE, on its website, says the U visa is for "victims of certain crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse and are helpful to law enforcement or government officials in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity."
Acosta-Granados' attorneys said in court documents they need the Plymouth sheriff to certify that Acosta-Granados was the victim of a qualifying crime and that he cooperated with their investigation, or is likely to help with it.
The sheriff's office, in a form letter on Oct. 19, 2021, denied that Acosta-Granados was the victim of a crime and said he was not helpful to investigators. Acosta-Granados and his attorneys appealed and the sheriff's department, giving no reason for its original decision, denied the appeal in November, his attorneys said in court documents.
A state law passed in July requires government agencies to give a reason for a denial.
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Acosta-Granados' attorneys said in the lawsuit that he reported being sexually harassed after he was transferred to Plymouth from a facility in New Jersey in July 2021. An officer assigned to investigate his complaint, filed under the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act, interviewed him multiple times.
Emily Leung, one of Acosta-Granados' attorneys, said in an interview that they were not prepared to comment on what kind of sexual harassment he experienced. She said she doesn't know if the person who beat her client has been charged with a crime.
On Sept. 12, 2021, an unidentified detainee beat Acosta-Granados, calling him a "rat," court documents say. The attacker was paid by the detainee who sexually harassed Acosta-Granados, his attorneys said in the lawsuit.
The unnamed attacker punched Acosta-Granados in the face, knocking him backward, and followed him as he retreated into the dayroom until Acosta-Granados fell to the floor near a staircase. His attacker stood over him, punching him in the head until corrections officers tackled him, his attorneys said in the lawsuit, citing reports from the jail.
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After the attack, a Prison Rape Elimination Act investigator interviewed him about what happened and he cooperated, his attorneys said in court documents.
Even though Acosta-Granados repeatedly cooperated with investigators, the sheriff's office denied his application for a U visa, his attorneys said in court documents.
Acosta-Granados was severely injured and still has pain in his head, neck, right cheek, left jaw and spine, in addition to severe emotional distress and "other mental health injuries," his attorneys said in the lawsuit.
Sheriff's office spokesman John Birtwell said they don't comment on pending litigation.
Leung said this is the first lawsuit over U visas in Massachusetts, brought partially because the new state law gives them a new way to contest U visa certification denials.
See more of our coverage of the Plymouth County jail
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Reach reporter Wheeler Cowperthwaite at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on The Patriot Ledger: ICE detainee sues Plymouth sheriff over U visa after brutal beating