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3rd target of body cavity searches comes forward

A third case of a forced body cavity search has been uncovered by a New Mexico television station, which earlier reported on two men who  forcibly were administered X-ray tests and anal exams after a police drug dog incorrectly alerted on them.

Now, KOB-TV in Albuquerque is reporting a case involving a woman.

The station said Laura Schaur Ives of the New Mexico chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is representing the woman, who doesn’t want to be identified publicly.

Ives said the woman considers herself a victim of sexual assault after she was attacked as she crossed the border from Juarez, Mexico, to El Paso.

The station reported a dog alerted to the woman, who said federal agents stripped searched her at the facility, asked her to undress, to spread her genitalia and to cough. Female agents also allegedly pressed their fingers into her vagina looking for drugs.

Nothing was found, according to the report, so the woman said she was taken to the University Medical Center of El Paso.

“First, medical staff observed her making a bowel movement and no drugs were found at that point,” Schaur Ives told the station. “They then took an X-ray, but it did not reveal any contraband. They then did a cavity search and they probed her vagina and her anus, they described in the medical records as bi-manual – two handed. Finally, they did a cat scan. Again, they found nothing.”

Ives said there was no warrant for the search, nor did the woman consent.

KOB-TV said Customs and Border Patrol spokesman Doug Mosier responded with a statement.

“CBP cannot verify information relative to these ACLU allegations since we have not seen a copy of the report, nor have we been provided necessary details in order to investigate. CBP stresses honor and integrity in every aspect of our mission, and the overwhelming majority of CBP employees and officers perform their duties with honor and distinction, working tirelessly every day to keep our country safe. We do not tolerate corruption or abuse within our ranks, and we fully cooperate with any criminal or administrative investigations of alleged misconduct by any of our personnel, on or off-duty.”

WND reported the other cases of two men who were targeted after minor traffic offenses in separate incidences.

State deputies stopped Timothy Young Oct. 13, 2012, “because he turned without putting his blinker on.”

Leo, a police dog, alerted on Young, and he was taken to the Gila Regional Medical Center in Silver City, N.M., and was subjected to medical procedures, including X-rays of his stomach and an anal exam, the TV station said.

No drugs were found.

The TV report said the procedures were done “without consent” and in a county “not covered by the search warrant.”

The station also reported the drug-sniffing dog’s certification expired in 2011.

The report said doctors and law enforcement officials both now are the subjects of formal licensing complaints, and civil actions are being pursued.

WND reported earlier on David Eckert’s ordeal. He was detained for 14 hours after Leo the police dog indicated it had found drugs on him.

Doctors at the Gila Regional Medical Center, at the demand of police, performed eight procedures, including X-rays, rectal finger exams, enemas and a colonoscopy on Eckert.

According to police, Eckert had rolled through a stop sign while driving out of a Wal-Mart parking lot in Deming, N.M., on Jan. 2. He was promptly pulled over and asked to step out of his vehicle.

The details are documented in police reports, medical reports and a federal lawsuit.

“They say when he stepped out of his car, he was standing in a manner that looked as if he was clenching his buttocks,” Shannon Kennedy, Eckert’s attorney, told KOB-TV.

Eckert’s butt-clenching, combined with the reaction of a drug-sniffing dog, were apparently enough for police to conclude Eckert might be trying to hide something illegal. So they obtained a warrant to do an anal-cavity search.

For the next 14 hours, Eckert was subjected to X-rays, cavity searches, several enemas and a colonoscopy at the hands of police and hospital employees.

“It is absolutely unimaginable that this could happen in America,” Kennedy told the TV station.

The first hospital declared the request “unethical” and refused to perform any procedures.

However, Gila Regional Medical Center had no such concern and promptly made Eckert undergo several invasive procedures despite his protestations.

Eckert underwent an abdominal X-ray, which showed no drugs.

He then had two anal exams in which doctors used their fingers. Once again, no drugs were found.

Three enemas failed to produce any drug evidence.

A second X-ray found nothing, so Eckert was prepped for surgery and forced to undergo a colonoscopy.

“This is like something out of a science-fiction film. Anal probing by government officials and public employees?” exclaimed Kennedy, a civil-rights attorney.

According to Kennedy, the warrant for the anal-cavity search was valid only for Luna County, where Eckert was arrested, but not for Grant County, where the Gila Regional Medical Center is located. The warrant had also expired by the time the colonoscopy was performed.

“The thought that they could do this to a man in our country is terrifying. Our community ought to be outraged,” Kennedy said.

Deming Police Chief Brandon Gigante refused to comment on the federal lawsuit but told the TV station residents of the town have no reason to fear unwarranted intrusions by police officers.

“We follow the law in every aspect and we follow policies and protocols that we have in place,” said Gigante.

When WND requested comment from the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office, an officer who answered the phone said the lawyers would have to be contacted. But he could not provide contact for the lawyers.

The medical center billed Eckert for all the medical procedures and has threatened to pursue him if he doesn’t pay.

A lawsuit over Eckert’s ordeal names Deming officers Maricela Hernandez, Bobby Orosco and Robert Chavez, as well as Hidalgo deputies David Arredondo, Robert Rodriguez and Patrick Green.

Kennedy’s lawsuit on behalf of Eckert is seeking “in excess of $1 million in punitive damages.”

Kennedy said a lawsuit on behalf of Young is being prepared.