Plaintiff in Deming Case Was Held for 15 Hours [Updated]

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Via, here's the complaint in Eckert v. City of Deming, which I also wrote about yesterday.

In general the KBO News report summarized it correctly, but there are some additional facts alleged here (in addition to more horrible details of what the police allegedly put him through). These are just the allegations in the complaint, remember, although according to KBO the medical records do confirm the plaintiff's allegations about the procedures done.

First, the complaint also alleges claims based on a different incident last year, when the plaintiff was stopped in his home county (Hidalgo) for having a cracked windshield. Because he "looked nervous," other officers were called and a drug-sniffing dog brought in. No drugs were found.

Second, the more recent stop in Luna County allegedly was quite a team event, involving officers from multiple jurisdictions and possibly a separate drug task force. According to the complaint, the officer who stopped the plaintiff hadn't actually seen the traffic violation, he got a call about it from another officer. Since the violation was failure to yield at a stop sign, why wouldn't the officer who saw it make the stop himself? We don't know yet.

Third, here are the facts that allegedly justified the warrant (still looking for the affidavit itself):

  • Eckert was ordered out of the car, and that's when the alleged butt-clenching was noticed. Specifically, it says the officers claimed his "posture was erect and he kept his legs together," which is not exactly the same thing. (Yes, I just tried it.)
  • At that point a sniffer dog was brought in—which turned out, oddly enough, to be the same dog from the 2012 stop. It supposedly "alerted" to the seat of Eckert's car.
  • The third piece of "evidence," apparently, was that officers from Hidalgo County—which is not where the stop took place—told the first group that Eckert was "known in Hidalgo County to insert drugs into his anal cavity." "Known" by whom? Learned how? How and why did these officers get involved in a traffic stop in a different county? All good questions.

The complaint also alleges that the affidavit was defective in other ways, saying for one thing that the law requires planned medical procedures to be specifically listed (it cites a 5th Circuit case and this would seem to follow from the Fourth Amendment's specificity requirement), and they weren't.

Fourth, the complaint alleges the plaintiff was held for 15 hours. The stop was sometime before 2 p.m., and he was not released until 5 a.m. the next day, after being probed for several of those hours.

Let's say police stop someone they know to be a major drug dealer, previously convicted, maybe even a "kingpin." As far as I know there is no evidence Eckert is such a person, nor do I think the officers believed he was, just because if I were a drug kingpin I sure as hell wouldn't be carrying the drugs in my butt. You hire someone else to do that. But let's say they stop someone who is a real bad guy. Or they even have a tip that he's got drugs in the car, and they've been trying to get him for years.

It wouldn't matter. The Constitution and laws have to apply regardless of who the defendant is or else they don't do the rest of us any good. And we don't know, maybe these cops just didn't like the guy. Maybe he's just the wrong race or likes the wrong sports team or slept with somebody's wife. Whatever the reason, they (allegedly) picked up a guy on a pretext and talked a couple of doctors into searching his bowels all night long. Think about that one for a few minutes, if you can stand it.

Then consider whether the "War on Drugs" and its even creepier pal the "War on Terror," which have consistently eroded the rules that are supposed to protect us from this kind of thing, are really worthwhile.

I know what I think, so I'll just be over here practicing how to stand upright in a very relaxed position.

Update: KOB News now says it has found another person with a very similar story: traffic stop, same dog, same medical center, similar probing, same result (nothing). Also, although searches with dogs are often tainted by signals the dogs get from their handlers, KOB says this particular dog has not been certified to sniff in New Mexico since 2011.