Teena Brandon was a lesbian with gender dysphoria who was raped when two men discovered she was female. Brandon filed a police report with the County of Richardson, Nebraska, and was subjected to a degrading and humiliating interrogation. Further, the police failed to protect Brandon, who was subsequently murdered. Her mother then sued the county and Charles B. Laux, the sheriff who interrogated Brandon, for the suffering Brandon endured.
From the court decision (GRAPHIC CONTENT):
Brandon had been sexually abused as a child, and in her late teens, developed gender identity disorder, a condition in which one develops a strong dislike for one’s own gender and assumes the characteristics, both behaviorally and emotionally, of the other gender. In November 1993, Brandon came to Richardson County after leaving Lincoln due to legal troubles. Brandon had been convicted of forgery in Lancaster County and had violated the terms of her probation. While in Richardson County, Brandon presented herself as a man. Brandon had obtained a driver’s license identifying Brandon as a male by the name of Charles Brayman.
In December 1993, Brandon met Lana Tisdel, a young woman who resided in Falls City. Tisdel, believing Brandon to be a male, dated Brandon for approximately 1 month. After moving to Richardson County, Brandon also became acquainted with (John) Lotter and (Tom) Nissen. On December 15, Brandon was booked into the Richardson County jail on forgery charges for forging checks in Richardson County. Brandon was placed in an area of the jail where females are usually held. While Brandon was being held at the jail, Laux referred to Brandon as an “it” during a conversation with Tisdel which took place in Brandon’s presence. A few days later, Nissen secured Brandon’s release from jail by posting bail with money Tisdel gave to Nissen. Thereafter, Lotter and Nissen became suspicious of Brandon’s sexual identity. On December 24, 1993, several people, including Brandon and Tisdel, attended a party at Nissen’s home. In the early morning hours of December 25, in an attempt to prove to Tisdel that Brandon was a female, Lotter and Nissen pulled Brandon’s pants down in Tisdel’s presence.
Later that same morning, Lotter and Nissen beat Brandon, hitting her in the head, kicking her in the ribs, and stepping on her back. Lotter and Nissen then drove Brandon to a remote location where both Lotter and Nissen sexually assaulted Brandon. After the sexual assaults, Nissen beat Brandon again. When they returned to Nissen’s house, Brandon escaped by kicking out a bathroom window and ran to the home of Linda Gutierres, Tisdel’s mother. When Brandon arrived at Gutierres’ home at approximately 6 a.m., Brandon had a swollen, bloody lip, scratches, and a “shoe print” on her back, and she was crying. An ambulance was called, and Brandon was transported to the local hospital, where Brandon reported that she had been beaten and sexually assaulted. A rape examination was performed at the hospital, and the results, which showed that Brandon had been sexually penetrated, were turned over to law enforcement.
Around noon that same day, Brandon provided a written statement to the Falls City Police Department regarding the rapes. Later that day, Laux and Deputy Tom Olberding of the Richardson County sheriff’s office conducted a tape recorded interview with Brandon. Prior to the interview, Laux had been informed by the hospital staff that Brandon had been beaten and sexually penetrated. Olberding conducted the initial interview, during which Brandon described the rapes, including the location where the rapes occurred, and that Lotter and Nissen had used condoms during the rapes. Brandon also indicated that she had a pair of rolled-up socks in her pants at the time of the rapes. Laux was present in the interview room the entire time Olberding was questioning Brandon.
After Brandon had initially related the details of the rapes to Olberding and Laux, Laux began questioning Brandon regarding the details of the rapes a second time, beginning at approximately 3:40 p.m. on December 25, 1993. Shortly after Laux began questioning Brandon, Olberding left the room. At that time, Olberding had a brief conversation with Keith Hayes, an investigator with the Falls City Police Department, who was present outside the interview room. Olberding indicated that he left the room because he “didn’t like the way [the interview] was going.” Olberding returned to the interview room a short time later. (All quotations from the December 25 interview appearing in this opinion are taken from the tape recorded version of the interview.)
While questioning Brandon about the incident that occurred at Nissen’s house during which Lotter and Nissen pulled down Brandon’s pants, the following exchange took place:
Q. [A]fter he pulled your pants down and seen you was a girl, what did he do? Did he fondle you any?
Q. He didn’t fondle you any, huh. Didn’t that kind of amaze you? … Doesn’t that kind of, ah, get your
attention somehow that he would’ve put his hands in your pants and play with you a little bit?
. . . .
Q. [Y]ou were all half-ass drunk…. I can’t believe that if he pulled your pants down and you are a female
that he didn’t stick his hand in you or his finger in you.
A. Well, he didn’t.
Q. I can’t believe he didn’t.
While interviewing Brandon regarding the rapes, Laux’s statements and questions included the following: “So they got ready to poke you”; “[t]hey tried sinking it in your vagina”; “So then after he couldn’t stick it in your vagina he stuck it in your box or in your buttocks, is that right?”; “[D]id it feel like he stuck it in very far or not?”; “Did he tell you anything about this is how they do it in the penitentiary?”; “Was he enjoying it?”; “Did he think it was funny?”; “Did he play with your breasts or anything?”; and “Well, was he fingering you?”
Laux confronted Brandon regarding the position of her legs during the sexual assault by Nissen in the following manner:
Q. How did you have your legs when he was trying to do that?
A. He had them positioned on each side and he was positioned in between my legs.
Q. You had your legs, ah, your feet up around his back or did you just have them off to the sides or what?
A. I had one foot on the floor and the other on the seat.
. . . .
Q. He had you on the back seat and you had one leg on the seat the one leg up up over the front seat or
A. One leg on the floor and the other just laying [sic] on the seat not on top of the guy.
Q. You had one leg on the back seat and one leg laying [sic] on the floor. Now just earlier when I asked
you, you said you had one leg up around him and one leg over the seat.
A. No, I didn’t.
Q. Yeah, because I can play it back for you.
A. Then play it back because I don’t understand it.
After the above exchange took place, Laux asked Brandon no further questions about the position of her legs. The tape recorded interview shows that Brandon’s description of the position of her legs during the rapes was in fact consistent.
The following exchange occurred when Laux questioned Brandon about Lotter’s sexually assaulting her:
Q. After he got his pants down he got a spread of you, or had spread you out, and he got a spread of you
then, then what happened?
A. When he finished he got out of the car and got back in the driver’s door.
Q. Well, how did, ah, let’s back up here for a second. First of all you didn’t say anything about him getting
it up. Did he have a hard on when he got back there or what?
A. I don’t know. I didn’t look.
Q. You didn’t look. Did he take a little time working it up, or what? Did you work it up for him?
A. No, I didn’t.
Q. You didn’t work it up for him?
Q. Then you think he had it worked up on his own, or what?
A. I guess so, I don’t know.
Q. You don’t know…. Did, when he got in the back seat you were already spread out back there ready for
him, waiting on him.
A. No, I was sitting up when he got back there.
Laux questioned Brandon about her prior sexual experience in the following manner:
Q. And you have never had any sex before?
Q. How old are you?
Q. And if you’re 21, you think you’d have, you’d have, trouble getting it in?
A. Who me?
A. I guess so. He was.
Laux further asked questions regarding Brandon’s gender identity crisis such as, “Do you run around once in a while with a sock in your pants to make you look like a boy?” At one point during the interview, the following exchange took place:
Q. Why do you run around with girls instead of, ah, guys being you are a girl yourself?
A. Why do I what?
Q. Why do you run around with girls instead of guys beings you’re a girl yourself? Why do you make girls
think you’re a guy?
A. I haven’t the slightest idea.
Q. You haven’t the slightest idea? You go around kissing other girls?…. [T]he girls that don’t know about you, thinks [sic] you are a guy. Do you kiss them?
A. What does this have to do with what happened last night?
Q. Because I’m trying to get some answers so I know exactly what’s going on. Now, do you want to
answer that question for me or not?
A. I don’t see why I have to.
A. I don’t see why I have to.
Olberding: You, you don’t have to answer. It’s, this is all voluntary information.
Laux: The only thing is if it goes to court, that answer, that question is going to come up in court and I’m going to want an answer for it before it goes to court. See what I’m saying? I’m trying to have the answer there so we can try to avoid that question if it’s not the answer I want to hear.
Brandon: `Cause I have a sexual identity crisis.
Q. Your what?
A. I have a sexual identity crisis.
Q. You want to explain that?
A. I don’t know if I can even talk about it….