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Friday, June 21, 2024 | Back issues
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Lack of Evidence Dooms Public Strip-Search Suit

WASHINGTON (CN) - Four men do not have enough evidence to support claims that D.C. cops illegally and publicly strip-searched and humiliated them, a federal judge ruled.

"This case arises from disturbing allegations," U.S. District Judge John Bates wrote.

According to the ruling, each of the men claimed to have been subjected to a strip- and body-cavity search by a Metropolitan Police Department officer in a public location, and in the presence of other individuals, including those of the opposite sex. All but one of the men said these searches also occurred absent of probable cause.

"Specifically, plaintiff [Bernard] Matthews alleges that an officer 'pulled Matthews['] pants down, grabbed his testicles and lifted them,' repeated the search 'in plain view' of a female officer, 'then went around Matthews and spread Matthews' buttocks and looked between Matthews' buttocks while still in the presence of Female Officer," the ruling states.

Another plaintiff - William Christopher Malloy - said that a city cop "cut the string of his sweatpants, 'removed Malloy's underwear, spread his buttocks, and began to probe around between Malloy's buttocks near his anus,' and 'conducted a search around Malloy's testicles, penis and foreskin.'"

The men sued the city and several police officers in 2009. Though Judge Bates had dismissed a number of counts, he ordered discovery for the claims under the men's First and Fourth Amendment rights. On Tuesday, he granted the city and the two of the officers summary judgment based on a lack of evidence.

"Despite discovery having been completed, the evidence the parties have provided to the court is scant," Bates wrote, noting the affidavits indicating approximately 107 strip and cavity searches occurring over a 13-year period. "None of the affidavits indicate that the incidents were reported to anyone."

Counsel for the men also introduced a log of similar complaints filed against the Metro Police Department, according to the ruling

"The evidence on this record, were it introduced at trial, would not allow a reasonable jury to find that a custom of allowing strip or body cavity searches, a failure to train officers about these searches, or any other policy of inaction caused plaintiff's injuries," Bates wrote. "The District of Columbia is thus entitled to summary judgment."

He made a similar finding for two of the police officers.

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