SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Woodbury County and its former sheriff were recently dismissed from two federal lawsuits filed by women claiming they were given unlawful strip searches at the county jail. Several other county jailers are still scheduled to go to trial.
U.S. District Judge Mark W. Bennett said in his recent rulings that the women could not prove Woodbury County had a policy, custom or practice in place that violated the women's rights, the Sioux City Journal reported (http://bit.ly/HTbsZA ). He also ruled that the women were not given strip searches because they were not subjected to any inspection of their bodies.
Bennett said in a 119-page ruling in October for one of the lawsuits that the description of the procedure as a strip search or search is, "at best, misleading, and at worst, invites jurors to decide the case on an improper, emotional basis." Bennett issued a similar 50-page ruling last week in the other woman's lawsuit.
The rulings in favor of the county and former Sheriff Glenn Parrett mean excessive force and retaliation claims against some county jailers are essentially all that remain. One of the women also claims there was an unconstitutional property search when her purse was searched during booking.
The women were taken separately to the Woodbury County Jail in 2011 and 2012. They claim in their lawsuits that they were booked on misdemeanor charges when they refused to take off their clothes and put on jail-issued clothing while male and female officers were present. They say they were assaulted and injured by several officers when their clothing was forcefully removed.
The county has argued that officers used proper force in response to the women's disruptive behavior, and that officers were following jail policies.
Woodbury County Sheriff Dave Drew, who was not sheriff in 2011 and 2012, applauded the judge's findings.
"This ruling shows we weren't doing anything wrong," he said. "You let these things work their way out through the courts. All along, I felt the employees here are doing a good job."
David O'Brien, the attorney representing both women, said he does not plan to appeal the rulings. He says he's looking forward to the portion of the lawsuits that will go to trial, which are the claims of excessive force on the women.
"It really gets down to whether it's appropriate to do these things," he said.
Four corrections officers are expected to go to trial in one woman's case. Two others are expected in the other woman's case. Another officer is a defendant in the unconstitutional search claim. Trials are scheduled for December and February.
Information from: Sioux City Journal, http://www.siouxcityjournal.com