A former Brazilian prostitute plans to sue the US embassy and five of its personnel for injuries sustained outside a strip club late last year, complicating the second of two embarrassing incidents to emerge recently involving US officials and South American sex workers.
Romilda Aparecida Ferreira, 31, and her lawyer said they planned to file suit for injuries, medical expenses, lost income and psychological trauma after an embassy van ran over her and left her stranded in the club parking lot with a broken collarbone, punctured lung and other injuries.
The incident occurred on Dec. 29 when an embassy driver was dispatched to the club to pick up three marines and one civilian staffer.
A civil suit would compound a case in which Brazilian prosecutors have already said they are considering criminal charges, including assault and failure to provide assistance to an injured person. It also threatens to further tarnish the image of US personnel overseas in the wake of a separate scandal involving US Secret Service members and prostitutes in Cartagena, Colombia, earlier this month.
Little noticed at the time, the incident in Brasilia, gained traction this week when a local reporter asked US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, then on a visit to the country, about what happened. Panetta said the US had investigated the matter, “severely punished” the marines and pulled them out of Brazil.
Few additional details from the incident have been provided by US officials, including the nature of an unresolved offer Ferreira’s lawyers said was made by the embassy to compensate her in exchange for a non-disclosure agreement.
However, the former prostitute, still recovering from surgery and now starting a career as a pet shop owner, detailed her account of the evening to Reuters in an interview on Wednesday at her attorneys’ office.
Ferreira said she, along with her co-workers, first met the four Americans over tequila and whiskey inside the strip club.
“Like any other night, we sat down with the guys to drink and chat,” she said.
Before long, she added, “we settled on a price and whose house we would go to.”
However, problems ensued when the group proceeded to leave the club.
Ferreira said she was forced out of the van by one of the men when she attempted to join some of her colleagues, who had already entered the vehicle. She said she panicked when the man grabbed her, so she attempted to hold on to the van, but fell to the ground, hit her head and lost consciousness.
After she fell, the man told the van driver to go. The vehicle’s back wheel then drove over Ferreira, her lawyers said, adding that the driver probably did not realize she was there.
The van briefly stopped after running her over and then drove off, they added.
In a Washington press briefing on Wednesday, a US Department of State spokeswoman confirmed Ferreira was run over, but gave a conflicting account of one particular — Ferreira had tried to open the door when the van was already moving, she said.
Ferreira, who worked as a stripper at the club for three years, said she was traumatized by the incident, which resulted in her being hospitalized for 12 days.
Upon her release from the hospital, Ferreira said embassy officials visited her to hear her account of the incident and then offered about 4,000 reais (US$2,100), which she rejected.