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False Imprisonment Suit Against Oakland Police Dismissed

A federal judge on Wednesday tossed a woman's proposed class action lawsuit alleging that she was put in an Alameda County jail cell stained with feces, blood and used menstrual pads.

OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) - A federal judge on Wednesday tossed a woman's proposed class action lawsuit alleging that she was put in an Alameda County jail cell stained with feces and blood and was refused menstrual pads.

Although U.S. Magistrate Judge Kandis Westmore in Oakland dismissed the city of Oakland and its police department from the suit, she allowed Cynthia Turano to amend her complaint against Alameda County and its sheriff's office, ruling that she had adequately pleaded a conditions-of-confinement claim under the Fourteenth Amendment.

Turano, an architect, sued the Alameda and Oakland defendants in December 2017 following her arrest for violating a restraining order by coming within three feet of her husband, with whom she lived.

According to the complaint, the couple was going through a divorce, and her husband claimed she had taken his camera.

No charges were filed against Turano, but she was booked into custody at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, about 25 miles outside of Oakland.

There, she says, she was put in a jail cell with feces, bloody hand prints and mucous spread over the walls and feces spread over a bench.

Turano also reported that phone numbers posted on the wall to inform detainees who to call if they were abused by an officer or needed other assistance were illegible.

A second holding cell was full of garbage, food debris and used medical supplies and was also stained with bodily fluids, Turano claims. Deputies also didn't give her a menstrual pad despite multiple requests. By the time she was given one, she says she had bled through her pants and onto a concrete bench.

When she was released from jail the following morning, Turano was forced to take public transportation "dressed in wet, visibly blood-stained clothing," according to the complaint.

"Cindy Turano's case arises only four months after the county had settled the claim of Weills v. ACSO, where the county promised to do a number of things, including to make menstrual pads readily available to all women who are held in booking," Turano's lawyer, Yolanda Huang, said by email. "Four months later, Ms. Turano was held in filthy cells, and denied menstrual pads, and ACSO clearly violated all their newly adopted policies."

Nonetheless, Westmore on Wednesday dismissed Turano's negligence claim against the Alameda defendants, finding Turano hadn't specified whether the claim was based on the failure to give her the requested menstrual pads or on the dirty cell conditions.

She also dismissed Westmore's equal protection claim against Alameda, finding Turano hadn't shown that jail employees discriminated against her due to her gender by failing to give her a menstrual pad, a necessary element to proving the claim.

"Simply because a female has [a] gender-specific requirement does not mean that the failure to accommodate those needs is automatically the result of an intent to discriminate based on gender," Westmore wrote in a 17-page order.

Gregory Thomas, a lawyer with Boornazian, Jensen & Garthe in Oakland who represents the Alameda defendants, declined to comment on the ruling, citing pending litigation.

Westmore dismissed Turano's claims against the Oakland defendants, including for false imprisonment and Fourth Amendment violations, without leave to amend.

She found there was probable cause for arresting Turano, and that Turano would be unable to plead in a new complaint that she had been arrested without probable cause in light of having admitted to violating the restraining order to police.

Oakland Deputy City Attorney Colin Bowen represents the Oakland defendants. He could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.

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