Trigger warning. The following video of a local news story may be triggering for experiences of sexual assault.
Tom Meyer, WKYC (2008-06-18): Grand Jury clears Sheriff Deputies of criminal misconduct in explosive strip search case:
STARK COUNTY — A Stark county grand jury has found no probable cause that county deputies committed any criminal wrongdoing while arresting Hope Steffey.
As many as 7 male and female deputies forcibly removed Steffey’s clothes inside a Stark County jail cell and left her completely naked for 6 hours. Steffey had someone call for help when a cousin injured her during a fight.
The video of Steffey being stripped searched triggered reaction nationwide, forcing Sheriff Tim Swanson to ask the Ohio Attorney General to step in and investigate the arrest and incarceration of Steffey. Link to The Investigator, Tom Meyer’s previous strip search stories
The results of the investigation were turned over to the Stark County prosecutor who appointed the Attorney General’s Special Prosecutions Section to present the case to the grand jury.
The grand jury decided to not indict any of the deputies. On the day of the grand jury’s findings, Steffey was undergoing questioning in a deposition for her lawsuit against the Sheriff. Steffey is seeking justice in a civil case filed in federal court and which is set to go to trial this December. Steffey is accusing deputies of using excessive and outrageous force.
It’s unclear if the jailhouse video was shown to the grand jury. Those proceedings are secret. But the video is certain to be shown in federal court during her civil trial. The Sheriff has maintained that his office has done nothing wrong and was always in compliance with Ohio jail standards. Steffey’s attorneys are now under federal court order to not discuss the case. But they have argued that that the force used by deputies was brutal and unnecessary.
Phone calls to Stark County Sheriff Tim Swanson seeking comment were not returned.
Attorney General Marc Dann launched the state investigation into the Steffey case in February. Dann resigned May 14 after only 17 months in office. Dann was forced to step down following a highly-publicized sex scandal in his office which included his affair with a female staff member.
Susan Vinella, WKYC (2008-06-19): Investigator Exclusive: Special prosecutors deny Steffey case was a strip search:
The special prosecutors in the Hope Steffey case said Thursday that there was no strip search and no criminal wrongdoing by the Stark County sheriff’s deputies.
Paul Scarsella and Bridget Carty said the incident, in which male and female deputies forcibly removed Steffey’s clothes at the Stark County jail, was a suicide precaution.
They said the deputies were only following a medical order given by a doctor on duty to remove her clothes.
The special prosecutors presented the results of their investigation to a grand jury on Wednesday. The grand jury declined to indict the deputies involved.
Though the jail has suicide suits for inmates to wear, Scarscella said Steffey was not immediately given one because even the suit was deemed too dangerous for her to have.
Steffey and her lawyers have denied that she was suicidal or was given the opportunity to remove her clothes herself, as the prosecutors say she was.
There is no policy that prevents men from removing a female inmate’s clothes during a suicide precaution situation. During a strip search, jail policy prevents men from being involved.
In a phone interview, Scarsella and Carty said they attempted to interview Steffey before the grand jury hearing Wednesday. They never did speak to her because they would not allow her attorneys by her side, as she requested.
Steffey did appear before the grand jury.
Scarsella said he could not say whether attorneys were allowed to sit in on the questioning of the sheriff’s deputies because ethical guidelines prevent him from discussing an investigation of uncharged defendants.
- GT 2008-02-05: Rapists in uniform
- GT 2008-03-07: Rapists in uniform #2: four more women come forward
- GT 2008-03-08: In Their Own Words:
Just following ordersedition
- GT 2008-05-10: Rapists in uniform #3: a sixth woman comes forward
- GT 2008-04-25: We need government cops because private protection forces would be accountable to the powerful and well-connected instead of being accountable to the people.