The H. Carl Moultrie Courthouse is the site of an alleged sexual assault in a holding cell. (Keith Alexander/The Washington Post)

A D.C. inmate identified by authorities as the victim of a brutal sex assault in a D.C. Superior Court holding cell said in an interview that he saw three U.S. marshals leave the area shortly before the incident.

The 27-year-old man said he heard one marshal say, “It’s lunchtime,” shortly before the three left. The inmate said he looked from inside the cell but could not see or hear any other marshals. He said his cellmate began to assault him — an attack that court papers say was partially captured on security cameras and lasted about 12 minutes.

Officials from the U.S. Marshals Service and the court declined to comment on the Nov. 11 incident and the inmate’s account. The Marshals Service also would not discuss the staffing at the time or say how often marshals are required to check on inmates.

The man’s cellmate — Jerome Holliway, 36, of Southeast Washington — was charged with first-degree sexual abuse. The incident remains under investigation by D.C. police and the FBI.

The Post generally does not identify victims of sexual attacks. In a 30-minute interview through the D.C. jail’s video visitation system, the younger inmate recounted the events of that day.

“He almost killed me. I thought I was going to die. I tried to fight back,” the man said. “I tried to scream for help. I was panicked,” he said.

He said his assailant repeatedly told him to “shut up.”

The alleged attack happened on Veterans Day as both inmates were waiting to be taken back to the D.C. jail.

“This happened in what is supposed to be one of the safest places. In the courthouse. Where marshals are supposed to protect everyone. Just steps away from a judge,” the inmate said. “You would think you would be safer there.”

The man was at court that day for a judge-ordered psychological evaluation following his arrest last month. He is accused of attacking a man with a box cutter in a Northwest Washington liquor store.

After a brief hearing, the man said he was ushered to the holding cell by a marshal. Holliway, who had been arrested for violating his parole in a previous simple assault and obstruction of justice case, was already in the cell, according to court records.

The younger inmate said the alleged attack began minutes after he was put in the cell. He said Holliway asked him why he had been arrested. The younger man said he refused to answer and his cellmate asked again. The man said he told his cellmate he “just wanted to go home.”

Holliway then asked a third time why the younger man was locked up, according to the inmate. The man said he ignored the question and instead said he was hungry and was hoping one of the marshals would bring a sandwich.

The younger man said he walked over to the cell door but didn’t see any marshals. The cellmate then told him, he said, “I need to make sure you’re not a cop.”

With that, the man said, Holliway grabbed him and threw him to the floor. The attacker then grabbed him by the shackles around his ankles and dragged him across the floor into a small area behind a metal divider where the toilet is located, the man said. There, he said, Holliway choked him, punched him several times, bit him on his back and then sexually assaulted him.

Court documents said the video shows that Holliway, with his pants down, “leaps” on his cellmate and then drags the other man, who was then naked, to the front of the cell. A witness in another cell described Holliway as “the big dude” when recounting the attack to investigators. Holliway is 6 feet, 9 inches and 195 pounds. The alleged victim is 6 feet and 155 pounds.

When marshals arrived at the cell — five minutes after the attack ended — they found the younger inmate naked and curled into a fetal position on the floor with his orange prison jumpsuit wrapped around his ankles, according to court documents. Holliway, fully clothed, was sitting on a bench.

Holliway told authorities the sex was consensual, according to the documents.

From the interview from the D.C. jail, the younger inmate said he fell unconscious during the attack. Afterward, he was taken to MedStar Washington Hospital Center, where nurses conducted a rape exam. He was hospitalized for two days, he said.

A spokeswoman for the D.C. Public Defender Service, which represents Holliway, declined to comment. He is set to appear before Judge José M. López on Jan. 27.

Last week, a D.C. Superior Court judge delayed a hearing in the younger inmate’s assault case after a court psychologist found the man mentally incompetent to stand trial.

Tammy Seltzer, director of the D.C. Jail and Prison Advocacy Project, called the alleged assault “horrific.”

“Leaving defendants unsupervised and cameras unmonitored puts individuals in danger. We know that people with psychiatric disabilities are generally more vulnerable and we count on the marshals to protect them when they’re brought to court,” Seltzer said.

The inmate said the assault has left him physically and emotionally scarred.

“I don’t feel how I normally would. I’m angry. But I’m not sure if how I feel is because of the attack or because of the meds I’m now on,” he said.

One thing he remembered inside the cellblock is a sign often displayed in jails and prison. It read: “Break the Silence. Report Sexual Assault and Prison Rape.”

He remembers seeing that sign during the attack.

“Just ironic,” he said.

Julie Tate contributed to this report.