Drug War

Woman Kidnapped and Sexually Assaulted by Drug Warriors Gets $1.6 Million

After a dog supposedly alerted to her at a border crossing, she endured six hours of fruitless body cavity searches.

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University Medical Center of El Paso

The federal government will pay $475,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by a New Mexico woman who in 2012 was subjected to six hours of degrading and fruitless body cavity searches based on a purported alert by a drug-sniffing dog at the Cordova Bridge border crossing in El Paso. The woman, identified as Jane Doe in the lawsuit, had already reached a $1.1 million settlement with the the University Medical Center of El Paso, where Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents took her after their searches near the bridge found nothing, and the emergency room physicians who sexually assaulted her at their behest.

In addition to a pat-down and strip search at the crossing, Doe endured "an observed bowel movement, X-ray, speculum exam, rectal exam, vaginal exam, and a CT scan." She repeatedly made it clear that she had not consented to these indignities and refused to sign a form saying she had. "After the CT scan," the lawsuit says, "a CBP agent presented Ms. Doe with a choice: she could either sign a medical consent form, despite the fact that she had not consented, in which case CBP would pay for the cost of the searches; or if she refused to sign the consent form, she would be billed for the cost of the searches." The upshot: The hospital billed her $5,000 for its services. 

Ultimately the hospital got stuck with a bill more than 200 times as big, while CBP agreed to pay almost 100 times as much as it tried to charge Doe for the privilege of being kidnapped and violated (although that money will, sadly, come out of taxpayers' pockets). Coincidentally, the total amount, about $1.6 million, is what David Eckert, another victim of a dog-authorized sexual assault, got from the city of Deming, New Mexico, in 2014. In addition to paying Doe, the CBP agreed to better train its agents so they no longer consider this sort of thing part of their job description. Commenting on the settlement, CBP spokesman Daniel Hetlage assures us that the agency "has policies, procedures and training in place to ensure officers and agents treat travelers and those in custody with professionalism and courtesy, while protecting the civil rights, civil liberties, and well-being of every individual with whom we interact."

"This settlement is one of the largest of its kind ever reached over violations involving an individual search," says the ACLU of Texas, which brought the lawsuit together with the ACLU of New Mexico. Last week those two organizations, joined by ACLU affiliates in Arizona and California, sent letters to 40 health care providers that run facilities near the border, warning them of their legal exposure if they participate in the war on drugs as enthusiastically as the doctors at University Medical Center, which as part of its settlement agreed never to conduct searches like those endured by Doe without a warrant. The letter explains that a warrant is required in such situations by CBP policy as well as the Fourth Amendment:

Searches that intrude on a person's body require a high degree of justification, even at the border….Except in very rare instances, government searches that intrude into the human body require a warrant because "[s]uch an invasion of bodily integrity implicates an individual's 'most personal and deep-rooted expectations of privacy.'" The protections guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment extend to searches conducted by medical personnel who are acting at the request or direction of law enforcement officers….

Your staff should know that CBP agents have no authority to compel healthcare professionals to assist in law enforcement searches. CBP policy absolutely forbids CBP officers from pressuring, cajoling, or otherwise requesting medical personnel to conduct medical examinations of individuals under their custody….

Even if CBP personnel insist that a person in their custody may be concealing contraband such as illegal drugs, healthcare professionals are under no obligation to comply with a request to conduct a search. Even for persons in CBP custody, the healthcare professional retains the obligation to ensure that body cavity searches, X-rays, CT scans or similar procedures are for legitimate medical reasons and to adhere to the patient consent requirements appropriate for that procedure….

Medical personnel should know that CBP's own policy expressly requires officers to obtain a search warrant to authorize highly invasive searches, such as body cavity searches and medical X-rays….

CBP defines a body cavity search as "any visual or physical intrusion into the rectal or vaginal cavity." Only medical personnel may conduct a body cavity search, as CBP officers are strictly prohibited from doing so per the Handbook. CBP policy provides that body cavity searches are reserved for "the most exceptional circumstances." As such, these highly invasive searches are not permitted unless the patient gives her free and voluntary consent or the agent obtains a search warrant from a judge.

The need for such guidance is depressing but undeniable. "When Ms. Doe expressed dismay about the unreasonable searches she suffered," her complaint says, "a Medical Center employee responded that these procedures were routinely followed when an individual is brought in by CBP agents. The employee also told Ms. Doe that what happened to her was not invasive."

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  1. Small price for taxpayers to find out for sure this woman was innocent of a victimless crime.

    1. But can we be sure she was innocent? Maybe she had the drugs surgically implanted into her abdomen like in The Fifth Element.

    2. Serves us right for electing the people we elect.

  2. …as part of its settlement agreed never to conduct searches like those endured by Doe without a warrant.

    Nice. Too bad the CBP settlement couldn’t include the same.

    1. All hospitals and individual medical professionals should have a policy of not conducting body cavity searches without the consent of the “patient”. It shouldn’t matter what a cop or a judge says. A forced search presents a health risk to the “patient” for no potential benefit to the patient. A forced search expressly violates the code of conduct for medical professionals. If the cops have a warrant for a body cavity search, make them execute it themselves.

      1. I have a dream that one day body cavity searches will be remembered as a barbaric and insane practice.

        1. I have a dream that one day my children will not be judged by the color of their skin but for the content of their bowels.

      2. Bingo. See below. I don’t allow it any hospital I am responsible for, and invited a cop who objected to my directive to the ED staff not to draw blood from a resisting suspect to arrest me for obstructing. He passed.

      3. How can one be allowed to exercise their Constitutional right to “to be confronted with the witnesses against him”, if that witness is a dog? How does one cross-examine that witness to ensure that the “alert” wasn’t for the odor of something besides drugs, or on an unseen command by the handler?
        How the “legal system” allows dogs to be used as instruments of detection doesn’t seem to comport with other, testable devices, like breathalyzers or radar guns, which have to prove their accuracy in every trial.

  3. The War on Drugs is a bigger threat to our liberty than ISIS.

    “In addition to a pat-down and strip search at the crossing, Doe endured “an observed bowel movement, X-ray, speculum exam, rectal exam, vaginal exam, and a CT scan.” She repeatedly made it clear that she had not consented to these indignities and refused to sign a form saying she had . . . . The hospital billed her $5,000 for its services.”

    If ISIS, rather than the police, had done this, it might make the front page of every newspaper in America.

    1. Yeah, well, air conditioners are also a bigger threat than ISIS.

      1. As are deer and bees.

    2. You want to protect our borders? Stop letting drug interdiction bullshit distract border patrol officers.

    3. The hospital billed her $5,000 for its services.

      If this was one of my hospitals, the mushroom cloud over the business office would be visible from space.

      1. Yeah, I have to wonder how that bill was ever passed on to her given that she literally did not seek services in the first place. That by itself is a lawsuit. I’m not shocked considering this appears to be a University, presumably a teaching, hospital. I’ve worked at one of those, and their standards were pathetically lax compared to previous for-profit and even non-profit hospitals I’ve worked for in the past. I had to get out of there after I saw a few low level employees used as fall guys for orders they were given, that were never written down. Nasty stuff.

    4. It’s pretty obvious that the only plausible threat to our freedoms, at the moment, would be our own government. Possibilities such as Russia or China, while possible, are not currently likely.

      1. Has been for quite a long time. And what is laughable is the utter ineptness by the powers that be to properly protect against foreign agents despite the onerous invasions of privacy and outright violations of our civil rights. They want more information yet they continue to demonstrate that WITH that information they still fail.

  4. Your staff should know that CBP agents have no authority to compel healthcare professionals to assist in law enforcement searches.

    In fact, with the ongoing war on coppers, they should try to take the long view and not pressure or cajole or threaten healthcare workers whose services they might one day require to save blue lives. But they won’t.

    1. No, they have an obligation to treat everyone. Not negotiable.

      1. Wouldn’t that mean they’re some kind of slaves?

        1. Nope. In the ED, its a legal obligation.

  5. Punch line is, of course, no-one actually responsible suffers any consequences whatsoever.

    1. I don’t know, the nitwits who cost their employer over a million bucks might feel some repercussions.

      1. Not really; this stuff is covered under insurance. What has to happen is that the insurers have to decide they want to make covering civil rights violations a very expensive component of their policies before this shit will stop.

        1. A principled prosecutor could also bring criminal charges against these criminals. I mean… in theory.

      2. Those nitwits are in a union. So… nothing’s going to happen.

      3. Doubt it.

    2. Sadly, probably correct. I suspect that not a single person involved in this travesty felt any kind of personal repercussions, and all still have their jobs.

  6. Totally worth it! – fed agents

    1. High fives, all around!

  7. She could have made this easy on herself.
    All the border patrol agents wanted was a little respect. Why did she choose to be searched?

  8. “For sexually assaulting a citizen, we assign you to receive training. The training sessions will be conducted at the Las Vegas Hilton. Here’s a travel and expense voucher. Have fun!”

  9. CBP policy absolutely forbids CBP officers from pressuring, cajoling, or otherwise requesting medical personnel to conduct medical examinations of individuals under their custody….

    Doesn’t say anything specifically about ordering and threatening.

    1. They probably didn’t even have to pressure the docs, who sheeplike did as they were told by the Boys in Blue.

  10. At this point I could dress up as an ISIS member and roll around in every drug and they would still leave me alone as I crossed the border. What does a guy have to do to get a full cavity search around here??

  11. I realize the ACLU can be a bit hit and miss, but I have to give them props on this one, particularly on taking action to proactively notify 40 other health care providers that they participate in these abominations at their peril.

    The government agencies involved will not suffer the consequences of their crimes, the private ones sure as hell will. That’s not nearly good enough, but at least some of the bad actors got hit where it hurt.

  12. In addition to a pat-down and strip search at the crossing, Doe endured “an observed bowel movement, X-ray, speculum exam, rectal exam, vaginal exam, and a CT scan.” She repeatedly made it clear that she had not consented to these indignities and refused to sign a form saying she had. “After the CT scan,” the lawsuit says, “a CBP agent presented Ms. Doe with a choice: she could either sign a medical consent form, despite the fact that she had not consented, in which case CBP would pay for the cost of the searches; or if she refused to sign the consent form, she would be billed for the cost of the searches.” The upshot: The hospital billed her $5,000 for its services

    ObamneyCare at its finest, folks. Since Medical Care is a Right(tm), why is she complaining? They’re showing their concern for Womyn’s Health with such a through pelvic exam. She’s merely being exposed to price transparency, which is the *real* crime here…

  13. After a dog supposedly alerted to her at a border crossing, she endured six hours of fruitless body cavity searches.

    She should count herself lucky that it was fruitless. One of the officers brought a pineapple to work that day.

    1. Accidentally clicked on your handle link. Excellent.

      1. Great lecture. Eye opening.

        1. He’s one of those guys that you just say, “Intellectually out of my league.”

          1. I think Hoppe is probably the most rightful successor of Murray Rothbard.

            1. Anatomy of the State, for me anyways, was mind blowing. Hoppe flushes out details that only a great mind would see.

  14. Pussy was searched. Cheeks were spread.

  15. This is not justice, in that the doctors and police involved were not imprisoned for rape. Which is what this was.

  16. ”Wait, wait! Don’t you guys need a warrAHAAAAANTT!?”

  17. ‘What’s the problem? I don’t see a problem.’

    David French.

  18. So, they will pay her off with taxpayer money and then take about half of it right back in taxes? So we’re literally paying them for the pleasure of having them rape us?

    I’m sure this will invoke some big big change when they can reach into the bottomless pockets of John Q Taxpayer to pay off their criminals. What’s it going to take to revoke immunity for all these scum acting “in capacity of their duties”? That’s when this shit will change for good.

    1. You don’t pay taxes on personal injury settlements.

      1. Nice point. +1. Still no one sees justice for this sexual assault.

      2. “Lost earnings” is taxable. “Pain and suffering” isn’t. In this case, I doubt she has to pay much if any taxes.

        1. Ah, I only did the pain and suffering part.

        2. Well, not directly. The second she does something with that money she will. But that’s a somewhat moot point really.

  19. Hippocratic Oath, motherfuckers! Ever hear of it?

    1. Clearly not. It’s a violation of the medical code of conduct to do something like this even if there’s a warrant. Though, I suppose I could see them being intimidated by the jackbooted thugs. “Do the cavity search, or you’ll get one too.”

    2. In a world where cutting off a mentally ill persons Johnson is considered humane, is this really any wonder?

  20. If you are a particular individual, you must comply.

  21. Did anyone lose their license to practice?

  22. If we ever get the war on drugs stopped, what are they going to do with these crack police dogs who ALWAYS signal correctly?

    1. Hunting tax evaders, of course.

      “Here is a piece of his clothing we found at his house. OK, boy, find him!”

  23. Damn she can buy a lot of woodchippers with $1.6M.

  24. Nice article, Jacob. I like the way you called this what it is – a sexual assault.

    I’m sure she wants to put this behind her, but she could probably go after the licenses of those ER docs with some success, and get the hospital in trouble with its license. Doctors and hospitals have no business collecting evidence over the objection of the patient. If the cops want a body cavity search or blood draw and the subject objects, the cops need to do the search themselves. I have made this painfully clear on more than one occasion, and made it stick every time.

  25. ** Warning – Graphic comment **

    I dream of the time something like this happens to me so that I can blast a big shit right in one of the fucktards faces, and get paid 1.6 million for it.

    1. Too late. They will find this comment and claim it was all your own perverted fantasy.

  26. You used to read about shit like this happening behind the Iron Curtain back in the 80’s. And the response from Joe Citizen was “Thank God I live in the USA and have rights.” I miss that America.

    1. This!

  27. In my libertopia, warrants are issued and executed by the parties to a case, of course with whatever assistance they want, with the only restriction being that the warrant must be relevant, minimal, and describe completely what will be searched.

    The real kicker is that if execution violates the description, or if it is executed before appeals are complete, or even if it is properly written and executed but the party loses, then the warrant target gets to replay the warrant on the author and/or executor in like manner, including at a surprise time and location of their choosing. Of course, said author/executor can always buy off the target.

    I wonder how much individual CBP agents and the medical staff involved would pay to avoid being hauled out of their car in some random parking lot and poked and prodded for six hours by strangers? I wonder how much it would take to buy me off. $1.6M is a nice sum, but making those damned fools sweat buckets and have nightmares while waiting for me to pick the time and place … some things have a very high price.

    1. The problem is, I’m not sure you can really adequately emulate the terror component of not knowing when, if ever, this going to end, and if you’re going to end up in jail at the end of it.

      That’s a different scenario from going through 6 hours of poking and prodding, knowing it’ll just be 6 hours and then done.

      Still, better than nothing, I suppose.

  28. So, how many of the perpetrators are facing federal charges now?

    These are the kinds of cases we should have a Justice Department for.

  29. Maybe it is too late to say this but I found the comment made by the hospital worker to the victim, that the cavity searches were routine for all people brought by the CBP, disturbing. It insicates a) a level of callousness one experiences in bureaucratic nighmares and b) an even greater level of liability for the hospital. There is still out there a great number of hapless victims that could sue the hospital for their piece of the action.

    1. Good catch.

      Unfortunately, the statute of limitations for suing a state agency (which is what that hospital is, I’m pretty sure) is very short. Probably many/most of the victims are out of luck.

  30. Can we just finally admit to each other that nobody…and I mean NOBODY, actually knows what a drug-dog “alerting” looks like?

  31. And of course nobody had to admit to any wrongdoing. Because the War On Drugs means never having to say you’re sorry.

  32. The [medical center] employee also told Ms. Doe that what happened to her was not invasive.

    OK then, that employee should have no problem putting their rectum where their mouth is.

  33. Re the egregious antics above described, the following questi0on looms large in my mind.Have criminal charges been brought against any of the individuals involved in the violations of the individuals impacted by what are plainly the criminal antics of people who should have, and likely did know better?Assuming that criminal charges have not been brought, why the hell haven’t they been?

  34. but drugs are bad, um kay

  35. How about we just get rid of all the “sniffing” dogs?

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