Obey: The Sequel

This is absolutely mind boggling. 15 months ago, after having called police because she had been assaulted, an Ohio woman was arrested for “disorderly conduct” and charged with “resisting arrest”. What happened next is, in my opinion, a textbook example of excessive force (and, later, what some might call sexual assault) perpetuated by butched-up cops intoxicated by the entitlement that comes packaged with a badge and a gun.

According to Salem News, Hope Steffey is suing the Stark County Sheriff’s department for “assault, battery, unreasonable seizure and deliberate indifference by failing to provide adequate medical care.” Her husband, Greg, the athletic director at Salem High School, is also named as a claimant in the suit for “damage from “unreasonable governmental actions by the defendants.”

More:

Named as defendants are Sheriff Timothy A. Swanson, the three commissioners, Deputy Richard T. Gurlea, along with John and Jane Does numbers one through 15.

The Stark County Sheriff reportedly denied the allegations.

The narrative of court documents said that on Oct. 20, 2006 Hope Steffey was allegedly assaulted by another woman on Weimer Dr. S.E. and Gurlea responded, questioned Steffey and asked for identification and she “mistakenly” produced the driver’s license of her dead sister, which she kept as a personal memento.

She immediately recognized her mistake and asked for it back, but Gurlea allegedly refused.

Documents say she “begged” for the return of her license but it wasn’t returned.

The deputy then ran a computer check of the right license and Steffey’s cousin noticed a bald spot on her head from the assault.

The cousin “reminded” the deputy that Steffey was the victim while advising Steffey of the hair loss which made her visibly upset.

The documents alleged Gurlea failed to call for medical assistance despite knowledge Steffey was injured.

Gurlea the, documents allege, warned Steffey to calm down and Steffey replied she was upset and could exercise her freedom of speech and her cousin again attempted to remind the deputy that Steffey was the victim and she had been knocked unconscious by the assailant.

The deputy allegedly refused to acknowledge her injuries.

Court documents said that after searching Steffey’s car, he turned to the two and questioned the cousin when Steffey asked for her sister’s license back.

Gurlea allegedly turned angrily and responded “shut up about your dead sister.

Steffey pointed her finger at her sister’s license in the deputy’s pocket and said, “she was here, she was someone” and Gurlea allegedly, suddenly exploded into a rage and allegedly slammed her face into his cruiser breaking a tooth, and pinning her against the cruiser, allegedly saying, “are you going to stop?”

The documents allege Gurlea then threw her to the ground causing cuts and bruises and with the weight of his body on her she could not breathe.

Steffey was then handcuffed and told to sit in the cruiser.

Sit down, shut up and don’t even think that you have any rights–sound familiar?

Once at the station, the ordeal continued as Steffey was forcibly strip searched by 7 sheriff’s deputies–including 2 men.

The Raw Story has the grisly details:

Eventually, Steffey was arrested and taken to the Stark County Jail, charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. But once in custody, her attorney says seven jail workers, male and female, forcibly removed Steffey of all her clothes, including her undergarments, while she lay face down in handcuffs. Local news footage shows Steffey wailing, asking “What are you doing?!?”

“And you have to ask yourself, what was the purpose of the strip search?” said Steffey’s lawyer. “What was the necessity of it? This was a disorderly conduct claim.

As noted by The Raw Story, even though it is department policy for “officers conducting any strip search to be of the same sex”, Stark County Sheriff Timothy A. Swanson is trying to claim that Steffy was not actually strip searched. Yeah. And I’m sure that leaving her naked in a freezing cold cell for seven hours and denying medical assistance doesn’t constitute “cruel and unusual”, either.

Watch the video* and decide for yourselves. Just remember: Hope Steffy was the one who was assaulted, first by a member of the general public, then (allegedly) by a law enforcement official who had been summoned by Steffey’s cousin for assistance (”The cousin “reminded” the deputy that Steffey was the victim“). Later, after having been arrested for apparently no good reason other than the arbitrary whim of an overzealous (read: power-mad) sheriff’s deputy, Steffey was subsequently “raped without penetration” by those who are supposed to serve and protect the general public (so says the rumour mill, anyway).

Libby Spencer gets an unequivocal “hear hear” from yours truly:

I don’t believe in violence, but if she doesn’t win her court case and these cretins skate, I hope the good citizens of this town riot on the streets. This really shouldn’t happen in America.

Unfortunately, all too often it does happen, both in America and north of the border. Once again, we are reminded that, as far too many law enforcement officials are concerned, blind obedience on the part of the citizenry is paramount (“are you going to stop?”)

Welcome to 21st century policing, where excessive force is operational policy.

h/t Crooks and Liars

18 Responses to “Obey: The Sequel”

  1. Brian DuBridge says:

    I hope all the law enforcement personnel involved in this, from start to finish, lose their jobs and are denied there pensions. This is happening all over, far too often. The police feel a sense of superiority over non- law-enforcement people, they create their own assumptions and rules as they engage in what is supposed to be investigation, and when people stand up for their rights their civil liberties are violated. Steffy would have been within her rights to use force to protect herself against the officers even arresting her.

  2. WildWzl says:

    This is just plain gross. The officers involved need to be fired. If someone did that to my wife, they wouldnt be walking the earth for much longer. Cop or not.
    Abuses like this happen everyday, and the police wonder why no one respects them anymore.

  3. Emily says:

    I’m from Summit County, Ohio which is only minutes from Stark; the nearest mall where most people in my community shop is in Stark. I’m absolutely horrified by this entire incident. I can’t help but wonder if there is a way to pursue these officers criminally rather than through a civil suit? It seems that a fine and loss of a job really doesn’t match the offense.

  4. cristina says:

    So this happened 15 months ago? What has been done to remedy the situation? What is going on now? The criminals here are the police, especially the two male police who should not have even been in the room.

  5. Henry Misserville says:

    I called the sheriff’s office and spoke with an officer about the strip search of Hope Steffey to express my outrage of perceived police brutality. The officer indicated that calls are coming in from around the country but would not discuss the case because of litigation. I did neglet to ask if the officers who participated in the strip search are on leave of absence pending the outcome of the case. I also emailed the chief to let him know that as a concerned citizen I am outraged by this kind of behavior. If it weren’t for the use of police cameras, we would not have this kind of evidence.

    We are becoming a militaristic society who should fear government oppression, whether it’s on a local level or national level witnessed by The Patriot Act that strips us of our freedoms that Jefferson warned us about. The likelihood of being attacked by terrorists pales in comparison to the incidence of police and government oppression today. We are the only developed country in the world whose government eliminated habeas corpus, which gives us the right to face our accusers in a court of our peers. This is what Nazi Germany did to its Jews and Aliens in the 30’s to defend the Fatherland. Homeland Security is quickly moving in the same direction, witness the National ID Card that all freedom loving Americans must oppose.

    An injustice to one is an injustice to all , and we can’t remain silent. So I am encouraged by the response to the injustice committed against Hope Steffey and I pray that her plight will be a wakeup call to stop injustice wherever it occurs. God bless Hope Steffey and her family as they seek justice .

  6. William says:

    The police beat up women with alarming frequency, then charge them with fake crimes to somehow justify the police brutality. The Virginia police beat up a woman at Reagan National Airport and did the same thing to her. There needs to be a federal overhaul into the police system’s violence against women.
    http://youtube.com/watch?v=XPNmxZwhMag

  7. dove says:

    From the small amount of info provided, the deputies are painted in a very unprofessional light. It’s truely frightening! I expect more from law enforcement. Simply from experience they do deal with people who are childish, psychologically unhealthy, intoxicated, and well just difficult. The point is that’s the reason for their training. It’s like a parent loosing their temper with their kids. One should know better and be equipt to handle such situations. Taxes fund law enforcement. The sheriff responding they he did is probably the legally appropriate response, but I would loose confidence in where his priorities lie. My hope is the whole story comes out and we find out what in the world was the reasoning for her being taken into custody and NOT RECEIVING MEDICAL ATTENTION. Wow, that last part is simply naughty on the deputies side! Very concerning.

  8. Carlos says:

    I was horrified when I saw the video of this lady being abused by those miserable cowards
    Forget the civil suit, I hope that they are prosecuted as criminals,this unthinkable behavior by the cops is taking place all over America and if there’s any publicity involved,the first thing they do is charge the victim with fake felonies or malicious assault
    Look at that pseudo sheriff,he blatantly denied the charges trying to protect his thugs.
    Enough is enough America!!!!

  9. What is going on in this video ..? Do we as women confront evil at home from a violent man in uniform if protest to not handled in such a violent way. It looks as if men who are violent in uniform should share a cell with OJ.

    I am outraged at the behavior of men and women in unform. I think we need a reaction

    In 1993, SITUATION: an officer in Mc Kees Rocks, Pa in an area they call the bottoms. I came back from my reserve unit to spend time with my dad in Butler, Pa. ended up one day walking to the store. A police cruiser pulled me over and wanted to know if i would like to take a ride in the cruiser. He pulled in the back of a warehouse..came from behind and reach into my bra and went up my shirt and stared at me and asked ” did you like that?”

  10. Mark B says:

    Be nice to see those 2 skinhead thugs that were stripping her be convicted of Civil Rights violations.
    Then get some time in a Federal facility and be raped WITH penetration.

    The Militarization of the Civil Police needs to stop.
    They simply need to get rid of the problem, not go Gestapo on the citizens they are sworn to protect.

    It’s like Child-Proofing your house, instead of House-Proofing the child…

  11. Todd says:

    It has never crossed my mind before, that police can take any man’s wife into custody and have men hold her down while she is forcibly stripped naked, her nudity in their full view, handcuffed and helpless, and left still nude for hours, in a holding room or jail cell.

    All because they subjectively determined that she was acting overly emotional, had a bad attitude, or responded flippantly to a question.

    Remember the public sentiment regarding our treatment of prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison? The public was outraged and our country was internationally embarrassed.

    There, we had men, possible enemies of our nation, being stripped nude. Here in Stark County, disgracefully, we have a woman citizen of the United States, being forcibly stripped nude while held down by men, in their full view.

    I thought only rapists engaged in such atrocities.

    Even a same sex forced strip search is traumatic for most women. Can you image how much worse this horrible situation is?

    It is beyond an outrage, and it sparks tremendous hatred in moral men. I would never let such abuse of my wife, mother, or daughters, go unpunished. No matter what the personal cost. It takes courage to do the right thing. (A man does what he must — in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers, and pressures — and that is the basis of all human morality. –John F. Kennedy)

  12. John says:

    As of May 5th sheriff Swanson has still NOT turned over all the Steffy video! I called the sheriff dept, May 5th, to see if it will be released. The reply was “It will probably be released to Steffy’s lawyers in discovery”…….I replied “PROBABLY”!!??!?!?!?! Are they kidding???

    Another Update:

    Looks like a 5th woman is coming forward with her story. She said she fears reprisals for speaking out. (She works at a juvenile detention facility, so I guess she knows how things work in that county.)
    I can see why, it seems that everyone in that county is part of the problem, at least all the ones I have talked to.

    http://www.wkyc.com/news/news_articl…?storyid=88666

    And now surprise, the State Attorney General, who is supposed to be investigating this incident, is himself being investigated.

    How would he be able to investigate the Steffy case, when he himself seems to be part of the problem????

    They called for his resignation, but he refused, so now they are going the impeachment route.

    CUT&PASTE:
    Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann has refused to step down as Ohio’s Attorney General, despite pleas that he do so or face impeachment.

    Early Monday evening, Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland said top state Democratic officials will immediately begin drafting an impeachment resolution against Dann.

    http://www.wkyc.com/news/news_articl…?storyid=88776

    I can imagine what the state AG is up to. They are holding off on the investigation, until the Steffy settlement.

    Which is supposed to be sometime this month.

    Then more than likely, the settlement will include stuff to kill the rest of the investigation.

    An official at the sheriff’s dept claims this will not happen. That everything will come out after the state investigation is complete.

    I been around the block a couple times and I didn’t just get off the banana boat.

    I’m calling BS on this, if I’m wrong, so be it. But I think they will quietly try to bury this in the settlement.

    Anyone care to bet me $20?

    This whole county needs to be cleaned out!

  13. John says:

    The saddest part of this whole mess is that all the people who are SUPPOSED to be running things, like the County prosecutor and the Sheriff, who is supposed to be supervising his people, can actually look at this abuse and say that his people did nothing wrong.

    Even as every other person who saw this is saying that it WAS an attack against Steffy.

    People who include a retired police trainer, a CBS law analyst, and even another Sheriff in a neighboring county!

    If Swanson, or any other official, is condoning this type of treatment for misdemeanors & traffic violations, then they are part of the problem, and they ALL need to be gone.

    Your right this should NEVER happen to someone charged with a misdemeanor or traffic violation.

  14. stephen ross says:

    none of these officers were held accountable. Ohio courts see nothing wrong here. her civil trial has been pushed back again.

  15. James says:

    Anyone seen “The Changeling”? sounds familiar. We can only hope for a similar ending though a non-US agency must pick up the ball in regards to human rights.

  16. John says:

    This is the BCI report that Agent Christy S. Palmer sent to John D. Ferrero, Prosecuting Attorney Stark County Ohio.
    Dated April 16, 2008 BCI Case #: SI-76-08-14-0147

    This is part of page 3

    http://s2.photobucket.com/albums/y39/Zemo999/?action=view&current=BCI-Report.jpg

    Sheriff Swanson has ALWAYS maintained that Steffey was ASKED & REFUSED to remove her cloths.
    But here’s the BCI’s OWN REPORT that PROVES this is a LIE!
    And then they try to explain away their first lie with another lie, about why it was done this way without asking Steffey to do it voluntarily.

    They are trying to say that Steffey was resisting enough that EIGHT people (5 women, 3 men) couldn’t take the chance of ASKING her to remove her cloths, or EVEN TELL HER WHAT WAS GOING ON!!!
    What a crock!!

    I did NOT see any resisting in the video, I saw eight cops parading her to the cell, with her in cuffs.

    In fact EVERY video I have seen she is in cuffs!
    And the ONLY times I have seen her react to the cops is after they have assaulted her or in the process of stripping her naked.

    But apparently catching the sheriff’s dept in a lie isn’t a big deal to our “independent” BCI investigator, Christy Palmer, who seems ready to accept ANY excuse the sheriff’s dept wants to use.

    The report also goes on to say that they lowered Steffey in a slow controlled manner to the floor. Except that Steffey says she was thrown to the floor.
    She also told her husband in a phone call that she thought the cops had broken her nose.
    And she was treated by the nurse for the injury.
    And in page 4 of this report Christy Palmer even states that Steffey reported that her nose was making “crunching noises”.

    So I guess this is proof of a second LIE! (Or third)

    And still Christy Palmer, the “independent investigator” doesn’t think twice about accepting the word of the cops over the VICTIMS in spite of proof.
    BTW, Christy also references a video that she says “proves that she was lowered in a slow controlled manner to the floor”. As far as I know, THIS would have to be on the ‘non-existent’ beginning of the strip video.
    On May 5th when I asked about the “missing” video, I was told it would soon be released.
    Now here again it looks as though it’s referenced…even though they NOW claim it does not exist.
    Interesting. (I have filed a request for this video.)

    Its no wonder the grand jury found that the cop’s actions didn’t rise to the level of “criminal culpability”. How could they with the BCI investigator spellchecking the sheriff’s own reports and passing them on as FACT.

    This isn’t so much an investigation report as it is a smear campaign against Hope Steffey.

    The cops can polish this turd as much as want, this STILL STINKS!

    BTW I don’t know why they bothered to black out the names of Nurse Coren Lennon and the jail psychologist Thomas Anuszkiewicz, aren’t they PROUD of the work they do?

  17. John says:

    UPDATE:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YgmyQvB3XSQ

    Ok heres a video you won’t see on the news.

    Heres the cops taking Steffey to the cell to strip her naked. This shows what was going on outside in the hallway.

    The quality of the video is pretty bad. It will seem to ‘skip’ frames for quite a while in some places, but then take a bunch in a row at other times. Why it does this, I don’t know.
    All the cameras at the sheriff’s dept seem to be in bad shape and “malfunction” right at critical moments.

    I had to cut this video in half, it was 20 minutes long, from the time they took her in to the time they left the hall in front of her cell. So I cut off the front of it when they took her in.
    Heres a link to the whole thing that should be good for a while:
    http://rapidshare.com/files/232400098/Production_Done.wmv

    WHY does it take 20 minutes outside the hall to show a “suicide prevention” that only took 4 min?

    The building camera, seems to skip a lot of frames, so you’d think it would be a shorter video.

    But as you can see after they have closed up the cell after assaulting her, they all stand around and have a good laugh, so this will add some more time to the video.

    As you can see from the video the big dufass in the white shirt, he stays at the door to the cell looking in all the time Steffey was being assaulted, and then he stays back around her cell afterwards, looking in….GEE, I wonder WHY?
    Then afterwards he’s joined by another officer who didn’t get a chance to help strip Steffey and he starts walking down to have a look too.

    WHY DON’T THEY JUST SELL TICKETS?!?!?!?

    BUT THEN the camera seems to malfunction, and the next thing you see is a empty hall.
    WOW, …..MORE “missing” video from Stark County Sheriff’s Dept.

  18. John says:

    Heres a news article that mentions Stark County Jail:

    http://toledoblade.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090511/NEWS16/905110319

    That same year, the numbers were much lower in the Montgomery County jail in Dayton, where 38,750 inmates were housed and there were no suicide attempts or assaults.

    Much higher numbers were reported from the Stark County jail in Canton, where 11,761 inmates were housed and where there were 14 serious suicide attempts and 89 inmate-on-inmate assaults.
    ====

    Looks like Stark County personnel could use some more training, and a new Sheriff. They process less than a third of the other jail, but seem to be the suicide capital of the USA!!

    As for the “safety” claims for doing this to people, try going here: http://www.sheriff.co.stark.oh.us/mr020219.htm

    A prisoner had been there TWENTY SIX times and NEVER exhibited ANY suicidal tendencies….UNTIL he too was placed on suicide watch!!

    So the sheriff’s policies are not only getting lawsuits, they are contributing to the deaths of prisoners? And the sheriff CONTINUES these polices!

    Will they be charged with murder the next time they drive a prisoner to take their life?

    And that doesn’t sound like too safe a “policy” to have, since they claim the deputies have gotten death threats.
    Will deputies be safer when they go to someone’s house after the people have seen what happens to crime VICTIMS?
    When deputies have to investigate crimes, will people be more willing to help after seeing this?

    Probably not, so the streets wouldn’t be safer either for ANYONE.
    And since this has been on national news, it not only makes YOUR local police less safe, it also puts MY friends & relation at more risk!

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