LaSalle County settles with female inmates strip-searched by deputies
BY KIM JANSSEN Federal Courts Reporter April 8, 2014 1:34PM
Updated: May 10, 2014 6:24AM
LaSalle County is paying $355,000 and rewriting its jail policies to settle lawsuits brought by five women who were stripped naked by sheriff’s deputies.
The rural county — one and a half hours southwest of Chicago — found itself in the media spotlight last year when security video footage was released showing three male guards and one female guard carry Coal City woman Dana Holmes into a padded cell and strip her after she was arrested on drunken driving charges.
Holmes’ complaint was 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 in federal court Tuesday morning, Holmes will get $125,000, while each of the four other women will get $30,000 each, according to their attorney, Terry Ekl, whose legal fees will also be picked up 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 said changes to jail protocol have been made.
Guards must whenever possible now seek approval from a supervisor before stripping an inmate, and cannot do so for punitive reasons, he said. Except in an emergency, guards of the same sex as the inmate must be used, he said.
Holmes was arrested in May last year by Marseilles Police and taken to the LaSalle County Jail in Ottawa, where video footage showed her trying to shield herself after being stripped. She was later tossed some blankets and a padded jail-issue suit.
A sheriff’s report said she had been uncooperative while being searched, though her lawsuit disputed that.