LaSalle County Jail strip-search lawsuit settled; LaSalle County to pay Dana Holmes $125K

LaSalle County settles strip search lawsuits filed by four women for $355,000.
April 8, 2014 3:20:35 PM PDT
A settlement over strip searches carried out by members of the LaSalle County sheriff's department. The search of one woman while she was in custody was recorded on tape.

Dana Holmes and four others who sued over strip searches will share a total of $355,000 from LaSalle County.

Jailers frequently have to deal with angry, abusive, drunk arrestees. Controlling their behavior is not easy. In limited cases, strip searches are allowed, but in LaSalle County, jailers over the years have sought to better control combative arrestees by taking off their clothes, and putting them in a padded cell. For that unwritten practice, the county is now going to have to pay.

It was about a year ago that Dana Holmes was arrested for drunk driving. A LaSalle County jail video camera, without audio, shows her being processed by four deputies: three male, one female. Holmes says she was compliant. The deputies thought otherwise. She was dropped to the floor, and then the deputies removed all her clothes and placed her in a padded cell with a blanket so she would calm down.

"I just want justice served. It's wrong. No one deserves to be treated this way," said Holmes, in October 2013.

Holmes sued. Other arrestees claimed they'd been illegally stripped. In a deposition the sheriff was asked whether there was a policy that "if somebody is combative, their clothes can be removed?" The sheriff said, "It isn't written. It's a procedure as opposed to a policy."

"We took the deposition of the sheriff, Sheriff Templeton, who said this has been going on for 40 years. (Four?) Forty. 4-0," said Terry Ekl, Holmes' attorney.

On Tuesday in federal court, the lawsuit was settled. LaSalle County admits no wrongdoing, but will pay Holmes, her attorney, and four other other plaintiffs 355-thousand dollars. It will also develop new specific policies and training protocols for its jailers.

"That in the future jailers understand that the forcible removal of clothing, while unfortunately necessary sometimes, is only to be used as a last resort," said Jim Sotos, LaSalle County attorney.

The settlement also calls for the county to hold for two years any internal video of arrests that involve removal of clothing.

"I believe that it's a step in the right direction and we will see with the passage of time whether it'll be enough or not," said Ekl.

The new jail policies being written will set up more specific do's and don't's, but still allow deputies some discretion with arrestees.

The Dana Holmes case is still being investigated on a criminal level by the Grundy County state's attorney, who is acting as a special prosecutor.

Jim Sotos, LaSalle County's lawyer, says the jailers in the Holmes incident followed their training, and that, he believes, will not lead to any charges.

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