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Another Sexual Assault in Service of the Drug War

A lawsuit by a Pennsylvania woman describes a humiliating five-hour ordeal that discovered nothing.

WikimediaWikimediaYet another case of a driver sexually assaulted in the name of the war on drugs dramatically illustrates the dangerously broad power that police officers have to mess with motorists. According to a lawsuit filed last September, described in a February 3 ruling by federal judge in Pennsylvania, Kimberlee Carbone was pulled over by New Castle police in November 2013, ostensibly because "she did not apply her turn signal at least 100 feet before the intersection." She was then subjected to a degrading five-hour ordeal that included a bogus DUI arrest, a search of her person and her car, a strip search at the county jail, and multiple probings of her anus and vagina at a hospital. As with David Eckert in New Mexico and the various women whose body cavities have been invaded by cops in Texas, no drugs were found.

Officer David Maiella stopped Carbone in the late afternoon of November 3, 2013, after seeing a man, later identified as Jason Monette, "briefly enter an apartment" and get into her car. Presumably Maiella suspected Monette of buying drugs, and the official, unverifiable justification for pulling over the car was merely a pretext. But according to the Supreme Court, that's OK. About 15 minutes after the stop, Police Chief Robert Salem and Lawrence County District Attorney Joshua Lamancusa arrived at the scene, where they grilled Monette about her companion and asked her whether she had any drugs. She said she didn't, but they did not believe her.

Suddenly claiming to smell the odor of burnt marijuana coming from Carbone's car, Maiella arrested her on suspicion of driving under the influence. He did not administer a roadside sobriety test, which is standard procedure in DUI cases. But he did pat her down, which was allowed as a "search incident to arrest," and he later obtained a warrant to search her car. Neither search discovered any contraband.

At the Lawrence County Correctional Center, Carbone was forced to remove her clothing, "bend over, spread her buttocks, and cough." Carbone says two corrections officers, April Brightsue and Niesha Savage, mistakenly thought they saw a plastic bag protruding from her vagina, so they repeatedly instructed her to "prod her personal areas by inserting her fingers into her vagina" in the hope of dislodging the imaginary item. Then they had her bend over, spread her buttocks, and cough again. Carbone was "crying hysterically" and insisting that she was not concealing anything inside her body. The Supreme Court has approved strip searches as a routine jail precaution for incoming arrestees, even when they are charged with minor offenses and there is no reason to think they are concealing drugs or weapons.

Maiella, the arresting officer, asked Salem and Lamancusa what he should do next, and they instructed him to take Carbone to Jameson Hospital in New Castle for "an internal examination of her body cavities." At the hospital, the cops found a doctor, Bernard Geiser, who agreed that Carbone needed treatment "for a possible overdose, rectal packing and/or oral intake of a controlled substance." But Carbone did not consent to "treatment," and the police did not obtain a warrant authorizing the procedures that followed.

Carbone "was restrained to a bed by her wrists and ankles" as Geiser "performed an internal inspection of her vagina and rectum." He did not find anything. When Carbone said she needed to urinate, she was instructed to do so by squatting over a bedpan on a chair. No foreign objects were found in the bedpan, and no drugs were detected in her urine (despite the fact that she was arrested for driving while stoned). Since Geiser and the cops thought Carbone "might have something located deeper in her vagina and rectum," she was subjected to an involuntary CT scan, which found no foreign objects.

During the CT scan, Carbone says, Lamancusa, the D.A., told her the ordeal would end "if she helped him by provid[ing] information regarding drug-related activity." He also asked her "if she knew what prison felt like." The lawsuit says Lamanusca and the cops added insult to assault by making "derogatory remarks about her compromised position."

Still determined to discover contraband, Geiser "performed a second internal examination of [Carbone's] vagina and rectum," then instructed two nurses to perform a third. They also swabbed her vagina "for testing." After none of these inspections turned up evidence of a crime, Maiella told Carbone she was free to go. She was discharged from the hospital at 9:15 p.m., having spent an hour and a half there and a total of five hours in police custody.

This pattern of escalating searches is similar to what David Eckert experienced after police in Deming, New Mexico, pulled him over for failing to make a complete stop at a stop sign as he left a Walmart parking lot in January 2013. The psychology is understandable: Convinced that someone is carrying drugs, cops and the doctors who willingly assist them see every fruitless examination as a reason to redouble their efforts rather than a reason to question their premise. The more they pointlessly violate the suspect, the more determined they are to justify their efforts and the humiliation they are inflicting.

Although the Supreme Court has upheld routine pat-downs of arrestees and routine strip searches of detainees entering jail, it has never approved the sort of warrantless "treatment" that Carbone says she underwent at Jameson Hospital. In the 1985 case Winston v. Leethe justices rejected court-ordered surgery to recover a bullet from a robbery suspect, finding that the evidentiary value of the bullet was outweighed by the risks of the operation and the injury to the suspect's "dignitary interests in personal privacy and bodily integrity." It seems likely that the CT scan and multiple vaginal and rectal invasions performed on Carbone without her consent would fail that test as well.

Carbone sued Maiella, Salem, three other police officers, Lamancusa, Brightsue, Savage, Geiser, and a nurse who assisted him, along with the city of New Castle, Lawrence County, and Jameson Health Systems. In his February 3 ruling, U.S. District Judge Terrence McVerry dismissed six of her claims but allowed her to pursue several others, including violations of her Fourth Amendment rights by the police defendants.

Notably, McVerry declined to dimiss a false imprisonment claim against Geiser, who argued that he "was acting in accordance with what he perceived as a valid arrest" and therefore "could not have intended to unlawfully detain" Carbone. "Even if the arrest were facially valid," McVerry writes, quoting an appeals court decision, "circumstances attending or following a detention lawful in its inception may render it unlawful so as to impose liability for false imprisonment."

However Carbone's lawsuit ends, there is no question that the treatment she describes is outrageous, and it would still be outrageous even if police had found drugs in any of the increasingly private locations they searched. The case shows once again how the war on drugs turns peaceful behavior into a crime while transforming criminal aggression into law enforcement.

I left messages seeking comment on this case from the New Castle Police Department and Jameson Health Systems. I will update this post if and when I hear back from them.

Addendum: Radley Balko and Conor Friedersdorf discuss a warrantless, fruitless roadside body cavity search in Aiken, South Carolina, that was so thorough the cops debated with their victim whether the hard object they were feeling was a hemorrhoid.

Addendum II: As a reader points out in the comments, Jameson Hospital is the same medical facility that was sued for facilitating state-sanctioned kidnapping by reporting new mothers who tested positive for opiates to the county, even when the cause was foods containing poppy seeds. In 2013 the hospital settled a lawsuit brought by a woman who temporarily lost her baby because she ate a poppy seed bagel before giving birth. Another woman sued Jameson after a positive drug test and infant seizure triggered by pasta salad with poppy seed dressing.

Addendum III: A case involving a New Mexico woman who was kidnapped and sexually assaulted at a Texas hospital in 2012 based on a dog's purported alert at a border crossing in El Paso does not bode well for Jameson. In 2014 the University Medical Center of El Paso agreed to a $1.1 million settlement of the woman's claims against the hospital and the doctors involved in the body cavity searches, which found nothing incriminating.

Update: New Castle Police Chief Robert Salem says "I'm not at liberty to discuss the case" because of the pending litigation. 

Reason TV covers body cavity searches in New Mexico:

[Thanks to Chris Renner for the tip.]

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  • ||

    Will I get to anally and vaginally probe her for drugs?

  • WTF||

    Hey, OMWC, don't bother, it's an adult dating site.

  • ||

    Aw fuck, I missed that part.

  • Swiss Servator||

    *slow clap*

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Is your classmate's sister in any way involved in reason.com's commenting registration? Because if so she doesn't seem to be earning her money.

  • gaoxiaen||

    I love a "compromised situation".

  • Rich||

    two corrections officers, April Brightsue and Niesha Savage, mistakenly thought they saw a plastic bag protruding from her vagina

    Oh, come on! Well, at least they didn't "suddenly claim to smell the odor of burnt marijuana coming from Carbone's vagina".

  • Poppa Kilo Sierra||

    Did the corrections officers report having any other visual hallucinations?

    Sounds like they should be checked for drugs.

    Thoroughly, if you know what I mean (and I think you do).

  • BillEverman||

    Jameson Health System is the same gang of morons that took a woman's baby from her after she delivered because she'd eaten a poppy seed bagel and therefore tested positive for opiates. I see that last year they shut down their maternity ward, so good news for women everywhere. They have a Facebook page.

  • Je suis Woodchipper||

    they do! and i see you've already trolled it. well done, sir.

  • BillEverman||

    "Troll"? Well, I prefer "tireless internet avenger," but poTAYto, poTAHto, right?

    Last time their Facebook page got slammed, for the bagel incident, it went away for a while. I'll check back and see if that happens again.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    The district attorney was personally involved in the arrest? That doesn't bode well for the victim's chance at justice.

  • Swiss Servator||

    But it will add bigger $ to the civil suit the taxpayers will be bled for... :(

  • Hamster of Doom||

    Swissy, considering the locals put these people into office and let them stay there, I'm beginning to be quite okay with that.

  • Free Society||

    Swissy, considering the locals put these people into office and let them stay there, I'm beginning to be quite okay with that.

    Following that same logic, the people killed on 9/11 were fair game. If all of society is a legitimate target because some subset of that society elected the people whose foreign policy so angered the Islamists.

  • Cloudbuster||

    ... the people whose foreign policy so angered the Islamists.

    Do people still push the "The World Trade Center and the Pentagon shouldn't have been walking around in such short skirts?" defense of the attacks?

  • NashTiger||

    You are some kind of stupid if you think our Foreign Policy angered the Islamicists, other than our policy of Not being Islamist, and daring to visit Saudi Arabia and the invite of the House of Saud

  • dconlaw1||

    @Nash: "our Foreign Policy" consisted of removing Iran's democratically elected leader in 1953 to install the sadistic Shah and endless interventions since. But it is "some kind of stupid" to entertain the concept of blowback? No. It's some kind of willful blindness to rule it out.

  • RonS||

    well, since 'legitimate' means lawful, no. But the logic here isn't the same at all - fleecing the taxpayers of a county for putting stupid wasteful people in office is not terrorism; it's punishing the people responsible.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Soooo what about asset forfeiture? I seriously suspect the judge's, sheriff's doctors' and DA's mansions and automobiles were used incident to crimes of sexual harassment and improper touching and ought to be confiscated pending absolute proof no such thing ever happened. And like all citizens, those suspects must remain liable for all mortgage and auto loan payments even though deprived of the use of said assets. To prevent a liquidity crisis their bank accounts must be frozen, along with those of other suspicious judges, prosecutors and cops until such time as assurance is forthcoming from the Federal Reserve system that all danger of a flash crash has passed.
    Commonwealth before private wealth, gnosse.

  • Bob Meyer||

    The only "asset" forfeiture was Carbone's. Suspected of drug possession her ass was seized.

    There will be a monetary settlement but neither the cops nor the hospital personnel will suffer any consequences. The state will rob its citizens in order to pay for robbing its citizens.

  • Adans smith||

    What you just wrote has a scary truth.We have went from defendants arrested to victims accosted in this country.

  • Zeb||

    We have went from defendants arrested to victims accosted

    Shouldn't that be "we done went"?

  • Rich||

    Carbone was pulled over by New Castle police in November 2013, ostensibly because "she did not apply her turn signal at least 100 feet before the intersection."

    Yet another reason for constantly tracking the location and status of all vehicles: Protection from corrupt cops.

  • croaker||

    This crap is why more people are installing dashcams.

  • Hank Phillips||

    why more people are installing cops are confiscating cellphones and dashcams.

  • Zeb||

    The war on drugs is totally worth it. Fuck yeah!

    I have a hard time even believing that after the search of her car and person they really believed they were likely to find any drugs. It's as if they re punishing her for not being guilty of the crime they thought she was.

    And all of this for what they thought was a small time drug purchase? That she somehow would have gotten into her vagina while driving and being followed by the cops? The woodchipper is too good for these people.

  • dantheserene||

    Those cops know their own women folk best, but just how much capacity do they think the average vagina has?

  • bacchys||

    Given what they're working with all vaginas probably seem huge.

    Being a huge prick isn't the same as having one.

  • Scarecrow & WoodChipper Repair||

    Once again, my solution is that when a warrant exceeds the minimum necessary for its stated purpose (which itself is subject to appeals), or when a valid warrant, validly executed, is in service of a lost case, that warrant rebounds on the executor -- here that cop, the DA, and the sheriff would all get 5 hours in detention by their victim, including an hour and a half of probing and rude commentary.

    If they wanted to avoid that, they could offer payment in lieu os retribution, but it would be up to the victim to decide what was acceptable, not a court.

  • gaoxiaen||

    Probing. Sounds like fun.

  • Rhywun||

    Oh come on... if you don't want cops watching you finger yourself you shouldn't get behind the wheel of a car. Duh.

  • ||

    you shouldn't get behind the wheel of a car

    Driving is a privilege, not a right.

    /prog

  • Abe Froman||

    My suggestion, which would go a long way to prevent this sort of thing in the future, is that every officer, police chief, DA, Judge, doctor, and nurses involved in this travesty, be rectally probed for 24 hours straight with a cactus.

  • gaoxiaen||

    Or go to jail to await trial. Then a speedy hanging.

  • Seamus||

    By the ankle. Over a woodchipper.

  • croaker||

    Make it a cactus covered in Tiger Balm and I'll agree.

  • Notorious UGCC||

    Someone Very Important must be a suspect here, with the police chief and DA personally attending a traffic stop and subsequent searches.

    Either that or they had just about solved the crime problem and had some time to kill "helping" at a traffic stop.

  • Ken Shultz||

    I hate to speculate about whom the informant might have been, but I wonder if there was an informant involved.

    The cops seemed super confident that they would find something eventually.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "I hate to speculate about whom the informant might have been."

    And for Reason's sake, let's not.

  • Ken Shultz||

    This story reads like the classic argument against torture--you have to assume the torture victim knows something.

    They kept torturing her and torturing her until she would finally tell them something she didn't know, or, in this case, give up drugs that she didn't have. Every time they failed to find something, it was further evidence that the victim needed to be tortured further--because they assumed she had drugs that she did not have.

    In the torture scenario, the torture continues until a victim that doesn't know anything tells you something she doesn't know. Then you have to assume the information given wasn't made up just to stop the torture. If this poor lady could have given them drugs that weren't hers, she probably would have. If drugs had been laying on a table nearby, she might have claimed drugs that weren't hers--even if she never had any drugs at all. That's how torture works.

    She should have been allowed to pursue her case on Eighth Amendment grounds.

    P.S. Why didn't they do the CT Scan first before raping her forcibly sticking their fingers up her vagina and anus?

  • Scarecrow & WoodChipper Repair||

    CT scans are expensive and prevent personal involvement. Cops are very hands on!

  • gaoxiaen||

    Finger probing is much more fun.

  • croaker||

    You misspelled "rape."

  • Microaggressor||

    If it wasn't for the drug war, I'd never get laid
    DRUG WAR

  • bacchys||

    At the least, they should have said she was empowered to perform the same things on the cops, DA, and medical staff. Since it's not punishment, just, you know, something.

    Oh, and the idiot judge who tossed the claim.

  • Billy Bones||

    As horribly disgusting as this story is, I must ask: What happened to the guy who got into Carbone's car? Was he subjected to the same treatment? Did they find drugs on him? Was he released immediately? No matter what this guy did or didn't do does not justify Carbone's treatment, but if they found drugs on him, that would at least give some reasoning for her treatment (again, does not make it right). Did he get in her car and then right back out? Was he in the car at time of arrest? If he did get in her car and then right back out, did the officers get a search warrant for the apartment? If so, was anything found there? I understand the article is about Carbone's unconstitutional, horrific ordeal (and I hope she wins in the sum of 8 figures), but complete details in a news article would help to completely understand the situation.

  • The Other Libertarian||

    Confidential informant? Nothing to see here, I'm sure. Moving along now. Bye.

  • Free Society||

    the D.A., told her the ordeal would end "if she helped him by provid[ing] information regarding drug-related activity." He also asked her "if she knew what prison felt like."

    False imprisonment, extortion, sexual assault and torture. All proved by that statement, if it was truly said.

  • Ken Shultz||

    If that's how they get their informants (through torture), then it's no wonder if their informants make a lot of false accusations.

  • Cloudbuster||

    If you're on a jury, you should regard anything an informant or someone getting a plea deal says with a bucket of salt.

  • bacchys||

    And completely discount anything a cop or DA says.

    If their lips are moving they're lying.

  • Cloudbuster||

    If you're on a jury, you should regard anything an informant or someone getting a plea deal says with a bucket of salt.

  • buybuydandavis||

    False imprisonment, extortion, sexual assault and torture. All proved by that statement, if it was truly said.

    That is what is called "giving you the opportunity to cooperate". Basic modus operandi to get "cooperation" from "witnesses".

  • RonS||

    don't forget threatening; here in CT that's actually a crime one notch below assault.

  • maheladawy||

    As long as society lets the Muslims succeed, death and violence will proliferate. Islam is truly Satans cult. Just as Naziizam was.
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  • Gene||

    Sadistic fucks, running them through a woodchipper is letting them off too easy.

  • croaker||

    Woodchippers can be set you can run them through again and again.

  • buybuydandavis||

    The Woodchipper Party is full of tender hearted softies.

    Vote Woodchipper Party 2016!

  • The Other Libertarian||

    For fucks like this I would have a coffee grinder attached to the woodchipper outlet.

  • ace_m82||

    God help them if I ever have a daughter and they do this to her. I mean, I'm not saying the justice system is completely broken... but I don't think I'd use it in that case to try to get "justice".

  • buybuydandavis||

    It does surprise me that more people don't engage in armed retaliation against State thugs.

  • Hooha||

    This is what I was wondering about. Doesn't Daddy have their names?

  • Half-Virtue, Half-Vice||

    Tie a noose and make it tight;
    A feast for crow come tonight!

  • Half-Virtue, Half-Vice||

    Every part of me wants to write a scathing google review for this rapist Dr. Geiser. I fear the reprisal I'd open myself up to in speaking of the unfathomable immorality of such a man who is so strongly protected by state authorities.

  • RonS||

    There's clearly something wrong at that hospital, given their history. The hospital I work at would've shown him the door as soon as this chart was reviewed.

  • PlaystoomuchHALO||

    Summary execution for the involved cops and complying medical personnel are good to go at this point....

  • Rockabilly||

    This is Obama's War on Womyn who Smoke Weed. It's also supported by Hillary Clinton.

  • Robert||

    Why couldn't this have a happy ending, like the CAT scan found a serious condition she didn't know she had, and that she then got rx for, and the luckiest motorist in the world was very grateful to the luckiest police in the world? Can I just imagine that's what really happened?

  • woodNfish||

    I understand why people kill cops - they deserve it.

  • MaxBlancke||

    I am amazed, not that such things happen, but that people think that they can do this sort of thing without repercussions. If this happened to a family member, I might react poorly.

  • Game||

    If I were that young woman I would be daydreaming about all the ways I'd be getting even.

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  • The Other Libertarian||

    Looks like the Ukrainian spam-bots have discovered Reason.

  • SamPeter||

    This is completely misuse of constitutional powers in the name of war on drug. Such officers and their aides must be penalized for their crimes.

  • ahmed kamel||

    This is completely misuse of constitutional powers in the name of war on drug. Such officers and their aides must be penalized for their crimes.

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  • ezzat||

    This is completely misuse of constitutional powers in the name of war on drug. Such officers and their aides must be penalized for their crimes.

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