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Jefferson County completes 21-month investigation of jail rape allegation

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HELENA, Montana — Days after a former inmate sued, Jefferson County completed a nearly two-year investigation into an allegation of jail rape on Monday.

County Attorney Matt Johnson said he concluded that no crime was committed against Audemio Orozco-Ramirez, who filed his lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Helena July 9 and has allowed reporters to use his name.

The 42-year-old Mexican national was being held on civil immigration charges in October 2013 when he says he was raped by one or more men in his jail cell. Orozco-Ramirez spoke little English and couldn't report the incident for two days, when he was transferred to a different jail where a booking officer spoke Spanish.

Johnson said in an email that he based his conclusion on lab results, telephone transcripts, jail video, law enforcement reports and interviews of the nine people who were also in the jail cell. He said the investigation was delayed by those interviews and long crime lab waits.

Orozco-Ramirez's lawyer, Shahid Haque-Hausrath, said the county's methods are troubling and the timing of their findings is suspicious.

A 40-minute interview five days after the incident was the only time the county conferred with Orozco-Ramirez, he said.

"Jefferson County never seemed to view Audemio as a victim and they treated his allegations in much the same way that the Missoula Police Department has come under fire for their treatment of rape victims," Haque-Hausrath said, referring to the city's mishandling of rape cases that was the focus of a federal investigation and a best-selling book released this year.

Jefferson County conducted DNA tests of Orozco-Ramirez's clothes, but has yet to release the results. Haque-Hausrath said he's looking forward to the release of those and other details of what he calls an inadequate investigation during the suit's discovery process.

Video of the jail cell released to Orozco-Ramirez's lawyers included more than three hours of missing footage during the hours he says he was smothered and sexually assaulted.

Johnson said in 2013 that the cameras automatically shut off during inactivity, but later produced additional footage that filled in some gaps.

"There was no cover up, videos were not deleted nor blocked out," Johnson said.

Johnson said the county's conclusions coincide with an assessment by the Department of Homeland Security. Results of the federal investigation have not been publicized or released to Orozco-Ramirez's lawyers and additional information from the department was not immediately available Monday afternoon.

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