Wednesday, February 6, 2008

911 call led to strip search of innocent woman

In this story, the 911 caller was not the wacko.

Hope Steffey's night of terror began with a call to 911 on October 20, 2006. It ended with her face down and sobbing on an Ohio jail cell floor, naked except for toilet paper she wrapped around herself for warmth. Steffey says sheriff's deputies used excessive force and assaulted her during a strip search, according to a lawsuit. Stark County Sheriff Timothy Swanson denies the allegation.

Steffey's attorney says her clothes, including underwear, were stripped by at least seven male and female deputies and jailers. She lay face down in handcuffs at the time. "Hope begged and pleaded with her assailants to stop," the lawsuit says. Her attorney, David Malik, said Steffey was never asked to voluntarily remove her clothes. Swanson said Steffey was asked to remove her clothes but refused. He said deputies took them off for her own safety.

"This could be your wife or anyone's wife," her husband Greg Steffey said. He said he still can't believe this happened to Hope, a 125-pound woman who, earlier that night, turned to police for help. "You don't treat people like this," Greg Steffey said. "I don't think murderers are treated like this much less people charged with disorderly conduct."

Steffey's ordeal with the deputies began after her cousin called police for help. In a 911 call, her cousin said Steffey had been assaulted by another cousin.

When a deputy arrived, he asked for Steffey's driver's license. She accidentally turned over her dead sister's license, which she keeps in her wallet as a memento. The deputy refused to give it back and told Steffey to "shut up about your dead sister," according to her attorney. Steffey was arrested and taken to jail. She was later charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

After her clothes were removed, she was locked in a cell. To stay warm, she wrapped herself in toilet paper, and remained in the cell for six hours. During that time, she was not allowed to use a phone or seek medical attention for injuries she suffered that night, including a cracked tooth, bulging disc and bruises, the lawsuit says. The sheriff denies that. (info from Mansfield News-Journal)

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