Texas: Video of invasive search shows 'rape by cop', says lawyer

Image source, Police video via Sam Cammack
Image caption,
The dashcam video shows Ms Corley (R) handcuffed while her car is searched

The lawyer for a black woman in the US state of Texas has released a police video which he says shows that she was subjected to an invasive search that amounts to "rape by cop".

In 2015, Charnesia Corley, then 20 years old, had her vagina forcibly searched for drugs after being stopped by police, lawyer Samuel Cammack said.

Charges against two officers have been dropped. A federal lawsuit is ongoing.

The lawyer wants an independent prosecutor to investigate the case.

Police officers had accused Ms Corley, then a college student who had been stopped for allegedly driving through a stop sign, of carrying marijuana. The incident happened at night on 20 June 2015 in a Texaco car park in Houston.

The dashcam footage - released by Mr Cammack after the charges against two Harris County deputies were dropped earlier this month - shows her handcuffed while two officers look inside the vehicle.

She is then searched, but the view of the camera is obstructed by the open rear-passenger door.

Ms Corley is put on the ground, with no clothes below the waist, while a female officer shines a flashlight in her pubic area, in an operation that lasts 11 minutes. The footage does not show the alleged penetration.

Ms Corley is then allowed to stand and cover her body.

"One of the officers on the tape, he was talking to a passenger who was already in custody in the officer's car and you could hear him telling that individual 'Oh we are going to find something, even if we have to put our hands on her'," Mr Cammack was quoted by local broadcaster Fox 26 as saying.

"This same officer body slammed Ms Corley, stuck her head underneath the vehicle and completely pulled her pants off, leaving her naked and exposed in that Texaco parking lot," he added, saying that her treatment amounted to "rape by cop".

"They then took Ms Corley and placed both ankles behind her ears spread eagle position and started to search for something in Ms Corley's cavity in her vaginal area."

Ms Corley was charged with possession of 0.02 ounces (0.5g) of marijuana and resisting arrest, both misdemeanours. But Mr Cammack said the officers never found marijuana on her, and the charges were later dropped by Harris County District Attorney's Office.

Two deputies involved in the incident, Ronaldine Pierre and William Strong, were charged with official oppression, but these were later dropped.

Robin McIlhenny, who represents one of the two deputies, said the footage cleared them of any wrongdoing.

"Deputies can't pick and choose what laws to enforce. And they don't know what end of situation going to be when first get into a situation," Mr McIlhenny was quoted by local Chron website as saying.

"She was never penetrated, she was never violated in that way or inappropriately handled."

Harris County prosecutor Natasha Sinclair told Fox 26: "No-one in this office stands by the search the way it was conducted. No-one condones that. No-one thinks it's appropriate. It should not have happened.

"However bad decisions, bad judgment may not rise the level of a criminal offense."

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said in a statement quoted by Chron: "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."

More on this story