'I feel like I was raped,' woman says of invasive roadside strip search
HARRIS COUNTY, Texas – A woman suing the Harris County Sheriff's Office over a roadside strip search says newly released dashcam video will prove her case.
The video was recorded two years ago, but Charnesia Corley said she still feels the pain of what happened that night.
Corley said Harris County deputies pulled her over in northwest Harris County for running a red light, but when the officer approached her car he said he smelled marijuana.
Corley was handcuffed as a female officer patted her down and then removed her pants and began what she called an invasive and humiliating strip search.
"She tells me, 'Just bend over.' I hesitate ... She shines (a) light on me ... She proceeds to stick her fingers toward my vaginal area ... I immediately pop up (and say), 'Ma'am what are you doing?'" Corley said.
The dashcam video showed her on the ground naked from the waist down with her legs pinned for nearly 11 minutes while two female deputies search her.
"She grabs me by handcuffs, slams me on the ground, puts her knee in my back ... shoves her fingers up inside of me," Corley said.
Corley was charged with possession of marijuana and resisting arrest, but the district attorney later dropped the charges.
Under District Attorney Devon Anderson, the two officers were indicted by a grand jury for official oppression, but last week the DA's office now led by Kim Ogg announced it had taken the case to a second grand jury, which no-billed the deputies, and the charges were dismissed.
"We discovered new, and significant, evidence that we believed had to be presented to grand jury," Natasha Sinclair, with the district attorney's office, said.
The DA's office wouldn't say what the new evidence was, citing the secrecy of grand jury proceedings.
"There's been no new evidence related to any material fact in the case. Ms. Corley's story has been consistent and the same throughout," Sam Cammack, Corley's attorney, said.
Cammack said the only evidence that matters is the dashcam recording.
"They claim they found something ... but it doesn't matter at the end of the day what they found, because what they did to find it was illegal," Cammack said.
"They're supposed to protect you. They're supposed to keep you safe, not rape you. That's how I feel. I feel like I was raped," Corely said.
Corley appeared before the first grand jury that indicted the deputies, but she said she was not called to testify before the second grand jury.
"I was never contacted about a second grand jury, I never knew anything about that this was done completely without my knowledge. It's like I didn't matter just like I didn't matter when I was laying on the ground helpless," she said.
The DA's office said Corley's attorney was notified of the second grand jury on July 31, but that ultimately it is up to the grand jury to decide who it wants to hear from.
In a statement Monday evening, Harris County Sheriff' Ed Gonzalez said:
"I understand and respect the community’s concerns regarding the parking lot search of a female suspect during a June 2015 traffic stop. I want to be emphatically clear that today’s Harris County Sheriff’s Office is fully committed to ensuring that every resident of our community is treated with dignity and respect, even if they are suspected of committing a crime. We hold the public’s trust as sacred, and we will always strive to be worthy of that trust.
"Harris County Sheriff’s Office policy prohibits deputies from conducting strip searches without a warrant. In cases in which a warrant is obtained, strip searches must be conducted in a private, sanitary, and appropriate facility.
"Criminal charges are no longer pending against two of the deputies involved in this case. Deputy W. Strong, who did not actively participate in the search of the suspect in this case, will be allowed to return to patrol duties. Deputy R. Pierre, who initiated the search, will remain in her current assignment within the Communications and Technology Bureau."
Corley filed a federal civil rights lawsuit that is set to go to trial in January.
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