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LaSalle County settles strip-search lawsuits

Updated: May 10, 2014 6:32AM



LaSalle County is paying $355,000 and revising its jail policy on strip searches to settle lawsuits brought by five women who were stripped naked by sheriff’s police.

The rural county, about 90 minutes southwest of Chicago, found itself in the media spotlight last year when security video was released showing three male guards and a female guard carrying a Coal City woman into a padded cell at the county jail and stripping her after she was arrested on drunken driving charges.

Dana Holmes filed a federal lawsuit over the incident, a complaint quickly mirrored by four other women who also alleged in a second lawsuit that they were intentionally humiliated and had their civil rights violated during unnecessary strip searches.

Under the terms of the settlement agreed to this week in federal court in Chicago, Holmes will get $125,000 and each of the other four $30,000 each, according to their attorney, Terry Ekl, whose legal fees will be paid by LaSalle County taxpayers.

James Sotos, who represented LaSalle County, said the county made no admission of wrongdoing in settling the suit to “avoid the costs of extensive litigation,” but changes to jail procedures have been made.

He said guards now must, whenever possible, seek approval from a supervisor before stripping an inmate and cannot do so for punitive reasons. Except in an emergency, guards of the same sex as the inmate must be used, Sotos said.

Holmes was arrested in May for DUI by Marseilles police and taken to the county Jail in Ottawa, where video footage showed her trying to shield herself after being stripped. She was later tossed some blankets and a jail-issue clothing.

Sheriff’s police said that she was uncooperative while being searched, though her lawsuit disputed that.

Sun-Times Media Wire



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