More women are coming forward to claim that they had been subjected to jailhouse strip searches, following a federal lawsuit filed in LaSalle County, Illinois, by Dana Holmes of Coal City. According to Holmes’ attorney, Terry Ekl, "We have reason to believe there are other women who have been illegally strip-searched by the sheriff's office," in LaSalle County. On October 8, U.S. District Judge Robert W. Gettleman approved Ekl’s motion to prevent LaSalle County authorities from destroying potential video evidence of jailhouse strip searches. He had filed an emergency motion for a protective order, asking that the judge force LaSalle County to preserve all video recordings from inside their jail. Holmes was not present in court.
Ekl’s motion contended, "It is believed that the video recordings will be destroyed, either routinely or otherwise, if they are not ordered preserved." No attorney for LaSalle County appeared in the federal court. Speaking on October 7, Chief Civil Assistant Todd Martin of LaSalle County’s state’s attorney said, "We simply don't comment on pending litigation."
Ekl is a former prosecutor. He said his office must determine the circumstances behind each complaint brought by other persons such as Holmes and evaluate their credibility. Presently, it is not clear whether any additional jailhouse strip-search video exists.
Ekl’s client, Dana Holmes, was arrested in May 2013 for driving under the influence of alcohol. Her blood-alcohol level registered three times the legal limit at the time of her arrest. After first being held by local police in Marseilles IL, Holmes was taken to the LaSalle County sheriff’s office where she was placed face down on the floor and then stripped by three male deputies and one female. The strip search in the brightly-lit holding cell was captured by a closed-circuit video camera. The officer walked out of the cell holding Holmes and took her clothes with them. She contends that she was left nude in the cell for over an hour.
"It's not only a violation of her civil rights. It's also a crime," said Ekl, who said that the video and documents were produced by authorities in court as part of her DUI case. Ekl said the officers became agitated when they told his client they would have to remove her belly ring with pliers. Holmes removed it herself out of fear they would hurt her.
Dana Holmes cited jailhouse video in a lawsuit she has filed against LaSalle County authorities. Holmes (33) alleges that the LaSalle sheriff's department and four deputies violated her civil rights and caused her emotional harm by stripping her without legal justification for such a search. "There was no excuse or anything to give them a reason to put their hands on me," she said. "I was just scared. I didn't want them to have any reason to come back inside."
After lying nude on the floor of her cell weeping for several minutes on the night of her arrest, her cell door opened and a male deputy threw a pile of blankets to Holmes along with what authorities describe as a "padded suit." Holmes was draped only in one of the blankets wrapped around her body more than an hour later, when deputies fingerprinted and photographed her, according to the jail house video. Males can be seen in the video passing through as Holmes, who was still intoxicated, struggled to cover her body with the blanket during fingerprinting. There is no accompanying audio to the strip search video.
Although Holmes soon covered herself with a blanket in her cell, her nude body was exposed again as she got to her feet. She alleges that she did not know that she was being videotaped. Said Holmes, "I just felt helpless and degraded. … I was actually afraid they might come in and try to rape me. I wasn't sure. I just had all kinds of things going on in my head."