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10/22/2013 10:12:00 AM County: Strip wasn't done to search, it was intentional
Attorney seeks criminal action against sheriff's officers
The attorney representing Dana Holmes in an illegal strip search case has filed a request for independent oversight in La Salle County on Friday to determine if criminal charges can be brought against correctional officers involved in the case.
La Salle County Chief Judge H. Chris Ryan Jr. is expected to hear the case Monday in La Salle County Circuit Court, according to an attorney also representing Holmes.
“We’re filing a petition for a special prosecutor because the elected state’s attorney in La Salle County would have an obvious conflict of interest trying to defend the county and investigate whether there can be criminal charges brought against the correctional officers,” said attorney Tracy Stanker.
Stanker is working with attorney Terry Ekl on behalf of Holmes.
OTTAWA — Lost in the national publicity and public debate concerning an apparent strip search abuse case within La Salle County Jail is a key nuance that has largely gone misreported, according to La Salle County State’s Attorney’s Office officials.
Correctional officers never performed a strip search on Coal City resident Dana Holmes. Rather, La Salle County Board attorney Todd Martin said correctional officers intentionally removed her clothing during the booking process, and then placed her in a padded cell with a tear-proof suit and blanket.
“This was never a strip search, it was a strip,” Martin said. “Her clothing wasn’t removed to perform a search.”
Martin would not elaborate publicly on what authority correctional officers have to forcibly unclothe an arrestee. He said details regarding their defense against the lawsuit would be made public in court and that the county’s attorneys are under ethical obligation to not “try the case in the media.”
Holmes, 33, filed a lawsuit in federal court in Chicago alleging her civil rights were violated May 18 when she was arrested for DUI in Marseilles and then brought to the jail for processing.
She alleges she was forcibly stripped by a female deputy and three male deputies who placed her on the floor of a padded cell and removed her clothes. The incident was video recorded on jail security cameras, and edited excerpts have been broadcast at www.newstrib.com and national media outlets defining the case as a strip search case. Itasca attorney James Sotos, who is representing the sheriff’s office, has issued a statement saying the allegations against the jail officers are false and reckless, and that Holmes was placed in the padded cell and given a padded suit to wear for her own protection.
As previously reported, Sotos’ statement reads: “On rare occasion arrestees refuse to cooperate with the booking process. When that occurs, they are placed in padded cells for their protection until they calm down and agree to cooperate. This usually doesn’t take very long, and almost always occurs by the time their bond money arrives. This practice fully complies with Illinois and federal law.”
The NewsTribune on Oct. 7 filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the county for all “rules, policies, procedures, protocol for all searches within La Salle County Jail.” Jail policy and procedure documents provided to the NewsTribune by the county as a result of the request show no clear instruction regarding the rules of either strip searches or incidents when an arrestee or inmate is to be stripped. The only mention of such incidents is a sentence that states the detention facility “recognizes the necessity of same sex supervision at times of: 1. personal hygiene 2. strip searches 3. medical transports.”
Lisle attorney Terry Ekl, who is representing Holmes, was not available for comment before press time.