LA SALLE COUNTY, IL — A woman says she was harshly treated after being detained for a suspected DUI. Surveillance video shows her being forced to the ground by several deputies, carried into a small room, and forcibly stripped naked. Now, the victim is seeking justice, and others are stepping forward claiming that they, too, were forcibly stripped naked by deputies.
Dana Holmes was driving home from a wedding in May when she was pulled over by Marseilles PD for speeding. After failing a breathalyzer test, Holmes was taken in for DUI and transported to a LaSalle County jail.
It seemed like a routine booking until a female officer began a customary pat down. After searching her right foot, deputies violently forced Holmes to the floor and carried her by her limbs into an open cell. There, three men and the same woman ripped off all of her clothes, including her undergarments, and left her naked and exposed on the floor of the cell. Minutes later, a deputy opened the cell door and threw in some blankets and what is described as a “padded suit” by authorities. There she sat for over an hour, alone and afraid with only a blanket to hide behind.
“I was terrified…I felt helpless,” Holmes recalled to CNN. “I was scared and I lay there crying. I just prayed.”
It didn’t stop there, either. Deputies entered again to rouse Holmes from her sleep, and was then paraded around the station naked to be photographed and fingerprinted. She can be seen in the video clutching at the blanket, desperately trying to retain her modesty in front of her abusers.
“I just felt helpless and degraded,” Holmes told the Chicago Tribune. “I was actually afraid they might come in and try to rape me.”
Authorities have had some trouble getting their stories straight after this staggering abuse. LaSalle County officers claimed that the Marseilles police officer that transported Holmes told them that she was “being mouthy and causing problems,” though the Marseilles DUI report noted nothing of the sort. The report stated that Holmes “seemed confused” about the arrest but described nothing of her temperament otherwise.
Deputies claimed that Holmes tried to kick them during the booking process, but the surveillance video shows nothing to support that claim.
The state has offered no further explanation or excuse for this indignant behavior. “We simply don’t comment on pending litigation,” Todd Martin, chief civil assistant with the state’s attorney office, told the Chicago Tribune. Who would be able to defend the indefensible?
Not that it would matter. Illinois law states that a strip search is only lawfully permissible when performed by an officer of the same sex, in a location where the search can not be observed by other parties not participating. Clearly that didn’t happen here, as three men helped conduct the search and recorded it for the world to see. LaSalle County deputies seem to be above the law.
This may not be the first instance of sexual assault by LaSalle County, either. Five other women have come forward due to Dana Holmes’ bravery, claiming that they were also victimized by abusive jailers and strip-searched.
“Dana Holmes in my opinion was not an isolated case,” said Terry Ekl, who filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of a 33-year-old Coal City woman for similar abuse in jail.
Watch the video provided by Holmes’ attorney to the Chicago Tribune. Do you see anything that could justify such a brutal response?
Holmes is currently suing LaSalle County over the incident.
UPDATE: (4/8/2014) Settlement Reached — No One Fired
LaSalle County will have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to settle with Dana Holmes and several other victims of the local jailers. As the Chicago Tribune wrote:
Holmes will receive $125,000 and Ekl will get $100,000 in legal fees, according to court documents. Ekl said four people who later joined the case with claims of similar searches will each receive $30,000 and that a fifth person will receive $10,000.
Holmes’ claims against the deputies – who maintain they did not engage in any misconduct – are also dismissed.
No one was fired, because the government believes “it’s in everybody’s best interest to focus on policies and protocols moving forward, rather than spending time and money fighting over who was right and wrong.”
Let the LaSalle County Sherriff’s Office know what you think using the resources below.
Tom Templeton, Sheriff of LaSalle County
Sheriff’s Office Phone: 815-433-2161