T. Don Hutto Abuse Case Goes to FBI

Laura Monterrosa’s sexual assault saga continues

T. Don Hutto Abuse Case Goes to FBI
by Jana Birchum

Outside the Williamson County Sheriff's Office on Monday, Dec. 4, a group of activists held signs and criticized the department for its failure to transparently investigate alleged sexual abuse at T. Don Hutto immigration detention facility in Taylor. Last month, Laura Monterrosa accused a guard employed by private, for-profit detention operators CoreCivic of sexual abuse, and since then an outpouring of other women have stepped forward. And last weekend, according to Bethany Carson at Grassroots Leadership, a whistleblower inspired by Monterrosa confirmed pervasive issues of sexual abuse at Hutto and named two guards who have abused their power to the nonprofit, which has led the charge for justice for Monterrosa. "This has been going on for a long time, since I was detained in 2009," said Sulma Franco, a former detainee who's now an organizer with the Austin Sanctuary Network. "The only thing that has changed is Laura's courage to speak up while she is still detained."

While Grassroots has pressured WilCo Sheriff Robert Chody to conduct an independent, formal investigation, it's still unclear if his office has done so. However, Grassroots claims WCSO admitted in a phone conversation last Friday that they did not pursue any investigation. Meanwhile, ICE (which contracts with CoreCivic to run Hutto) said the federal agency, with the assistance of WCSO, found the allegations made by Monterrosa "unsubstantiated," concluding the information she provided could "not be corroborated" and that the case "lacked evidence to pursue any further action." Responding to a Chronicle follow-up, ICE's regional spokesperson emailed back two words: "Contact FBI." In a turn of events, the Federal Bureau of Investigation's San Antonio field office, Austin Resident Agency Office, and the Civil Rights Division have now taken over the case as a civil rights investigation. A regional spokesperson said, "The FBI will collect all available facts and evidence and will ensure that the investigation is conducted in a fair, thorough and impartial manner."

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Hutto
Day Trips: Cookies, Cupcakes and More, Hutto
Day Trips: Cookies, Cupcakes and More, Hutto
Hutto Bakery Keeps Cooking Through the Pandemic

Gerald E. McLeod, April 2, 2021

Naked City
Naked City
News briefs from Austin, the region, and elsewhere

Oct. 10, 2008

More by Mary Tuma
Feds Escalate Legal Intervention Over SB 8
Feds Escalate Legal Intervention Over SB 8
Biden's DOJ sues, files emergency motion to block Texas abortion ban

Sept. 17, 2021

U.S. Department of Justice Sues to Block Texas Abortion Ban
U.S. Department of Justice Sues to Block Texas Abortion Ban
State prohibits most abortions, even as Roe v. Wade remains law

Sept. 13, 2021


Hutto, Laura Monterrosa, Robert Chody, FBI

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle