A Brazilian sex worker Romilda Aparecida Ferreira, 31, is planning to file a civil suit for injuries, medical expenses, lost income and psychological trauma after a U.S. Embassy van ran over her at a club parking lot and left her with injuries.
On December 29, 2011, Ferreira was run over by an embassy driver who was dispatched to the club where she was a striptease worker to pick up three U.S. Marines and one civilian. According to Reuters, Brazilian prosecutors say they are considering criminal charges in addition to the civil suit. The criminal charges include assault and failure to provide assistance to injured person.
The latest case, according to Reuters, is a complication for the U.S. which is in the middle of a sex scandal involving Colombian prostitutes and U.S. Secret Service agents and military personnel.
The Brazilian incident came to media attention when a Brazilian reporter asked U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta about the case while he was in Brazil. Panetta answered that the U.S. had investigated the matter and "severely punished" the Marines, and recalled them from Brazil. According to New York Daily News, Panetta said that three Marines and an embassy staffer were punished in December. He said: “Where it takes place you can be sure that we will act to make sure that they are punished and that that kind of behavior is not acceptable." Two of the Marines were demoted and according to NY Daily News, members of Congress are demanding to know whether this incident and the Colombian incident are aberrations or "symptom of how staff behave on overseas trips."
U.S. officials have provided very little information about the incident but Reuters reports that the U.S. Embassy made an offer to Ferreira's lawyers to compensate her in exchange for an undisclosed agreement.
Ferreira, still recovering from surgery, said she and her co-workers met four Americans at a strip club. They had a drink and chat. Some of the men left with some prostitutes in a cab but Ferreira and other prostitutes got into an official embassy van with other men.
According Daily Mail, as the car pulled away there was a disagreement over how much the women would be paid and one of the Marines pushed Ferreira out of the car. She said she tried to hold on to the car but was dragged under the wheels. She said: "I tried to get up and grabbed the doorknob. That was when they told the driver to go. Then I felt my leg burning. I let go and fell underneath the van. I hit my head and passed out."
According to Ferreira's lawyers, the back wheel of the van drove over her. The driver stopped briefly and then drove off. But an account of the incident by a U.S. Department spokeswoman was in conflict with the account by Ferreira's lawyers. The U.S. official said Ferreira had tried to open the door after the car was already moving.
Daily Mail reports that the Brazilian police requested the arrest of the driver of the van and one of the Marines, but U.S. authorities removed the four men from the country before they could be arrested and charged with crimes.
Ferreira claimed that after her release from hospital, embassy officials visited her and offered her $2,100 which she rejected. The lawyers said they failed to reach an agreement on payment with the embassy. The embassy had wanted Ferreira to sign a non-disclosure agreement. A U.S. embassy spokesman confirmed there was an inconclusive discussion between the embassy and Ferreira's lawyers.
Ferreira's lawyers say they would be monitoring the progress of the criminal charges before progressing with the civil suit.
Reuters reports Ferreira took a loan from a friend and paid about $9,574 for the surgery. Ferreira says she can't return to her former profession any more because of her injuries. Now she runs a pet shop and grooming service.