New video and copy of lawsuit provide more details on jailhouse strip search but leave more questions unanswered
The horrific video of Stark County sheriff deputies ripping the clothes off of Hope Steffey as she screeches in bloodcurdling protest is shocking on its own.
But the fact that some people on the Internet have defended the deputies’ behavior is truly mind-boggling.
Especially considering that it is obvious the deputies violated departmental policy by having two male deputies participate in ripping off her clothes.
Stark County Sheriff Timothy A. Swanson defends the deputies’ actions by claiming it was not a “strip search”, but an attempt to protect Steffey from injuring herself.
Too bad nobody was there to protect Steffey from the ravaging hands of deputies.
Swanson is refusing to release additional video from that evening.
And there is no doubt there is additional video because footage from a jailhouse surveillance camera shows a deputy filming the scene as deputies escort Steffey to her cell, according to Part 2 of the news story aired on WKYC-TV in Canton, Ohio, which has been doing an excellent job exposing this incident.
Neither part 1 or 2 of Channel 3′s videos have been discussed in the mainstream media outside of Ohio.
But it has spread like wildfire on the Internet since the video was first posted on Youtube.com Friday night, where it received more than 53,000 views in 48 hours. And that was on a weekend, when things are usually slow on the Internet.
Just to give you an example of some of the things being said on the Internet:
Wow. I can’t believe how much you guys are throwing a fit over this. The LEOs knew two things:
1) She was trying to get someone arrested and prosecuted for a violent offense for which he would probably end up imprisoned and beat/raped.
2) She was lying to them.
I guess we can’t expect much from a guy who calls himself “jock@law”.
The irony of this incident is that the video was filmed by the deputies themselves, no doubt to protect themselves to lawsuits.
Either that or to satisfy some sadistic fetish in which they get off on watching a sobbing and screaming woman withering naked and handcuffed on the jail cell floor.
Steffey’s ordeal began the night of Oct. 20th, 2006 when she was involved in some type of altercation with her cousin. Another cousin called 911, reporting that Steffey had been assaulted. When Stark County Deputy Richard T. Gurlea arrived on the scene, he asked for Steffey’s ID.
She gave him her deceased sister’s driver license, which she had been carrying in her wallet as a memento. When she realized her mistake, she asked for it back, but the deputy refused.
It is understandable why the deputy became suspicious. Especially considering there have been so many cases of stolen identification over the years. But there is hardly a resemblance between Steffey and her sister, judging by a picture that was broadcast on the news segment.
And the fact that Steffey handed Gurnea her real ID seconds later should have also been an indicator that she was not trying to pass off as her deceased sister.
And even if Steffey was acting irrational and belligerent, which is understandable considering she just had a patch of her hair pulled out by her cousin, not to mention that she was being treated as a suspect, Gurlea needed to maintain patience, professionalism and prudence in order to prevent the situation from escalating.
But Gurlea did the complete opposite, according to the lawsuit.
Gurlea suddenly exploded into a rage, and without provocation turned towards Hope and slammed Hope’s face into the cruiser, breaking one of Hope’s teeth. Gurlea then pinned Hope against his cruiser with his pelvic area and said, “are you going to stop?” Gurlea twisted Hope’s arm high up behind her back, causing Hope to react in pain.
Gurlea then picked Hope off the ground and slammed her, face first, into the dirt road, causing Hope’s nose to hit hard against the ground and causing cuts and bruises. Hope’s chest and lungs were jammed into the ground by the entire weight of Gurlea’s body and knees. Blood began streaming down Hope’s face and neck. With his knees in Hope’s back, Gurlea once again asked “are you going to stop, are you going to
Judging by what we’ve seen in the video, this scenario is not hard to believe. Once they arrived at the jail, she was whisked into a room and asked if she had ever thought of harming herself. When she answered, “now or ever?”:
Hope’s legs were knocked out from under her and her face was jammed hard into the floor. No warning was given and no words were spoken by Hope’s assailants. Written authorization for the strip search of Hope Steffey, pursuant to law and policy, was never obtained by the Sheriff’s Office or by any of the John or Jane Does.
Even if Steffey had displayed suicidal behavior, the deputies handled it in the most unprofessional and criminal manner, judging by the deputies behavior on that video. This was, as Steffey’s husband described it, “rape without penetration”.
The fact is, jails throughout the United States need to be professionally trained to deal with suicidal inmates. And most have clear guidelines that do not call for leaving a prisoner naked in their cell for six hours. And even if they don’t have guidelines in place, most are able to deal with suicidal inmates with common sense, unlike the Stark County Sheriff’s Office.
Here is an exert from a 1989 New York Times article about how many jails did not have clear guidelines in handling suicidal patients at the time:
Chief Joseph L. Delaney of the Paramus Police, whose department processes as many as 50 prisoners a week in a detention area consisting of seven cells, said: ”In a detention cell, certain basics have to be provided, such as a toilet, running water, heat and clothing.
But if I feel that someone is suicidal and is going to attempt something before I can get him or her to the county jail or the county hospital for psychiatric evaluation, we’ll strip them of their clothes and provide a heavy paper-type jump suit that if used in an attempt at hanging, it will not support a person’s weight.”
The fact that Steffey was left naked for six hours in a cell is not much different than the incidents that occurred at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq a few years ago, which resulted in the conviction and imprisonment of seven American soldiers.
Perhaps these deputies are veterans of the Iraq War, suffering from some sadistic form of post-traumatic stress disorder.
If that’s the case, then God help us because we’re in for the long-haul.