The lawyer representing a Black woman who underwent a prolonged, invasive strip search in 2015 says the dashcam video of the incident shows his client Charnesia Corley was sexually assaulted by two Texas police officers.
“When you stick your fingers in somebody without their effective consent, that’s rape in any state that I know of,” attorney Sam Cammack told The Guardian.
Carmack released the video to the public earlier this week because the charges against the two Harris County deputies involved in the case, Ronaldine Pierre and William Strong, were dropped by a grand jury on August 10. The officers, who were indicted in the summer of 2016, are still working at the sheriff’s department.
In June 2015, Corley, then 20 years old, was pulled over by the officers for allegedly running a stop sign. The dashcam video released by her attorney shows she was handcuffed and asked to stand next to her car while the officers examined its interior. After looking at the inside of the vehicle, the officers searched Corley with the rear passenger-side door open, which partially blocked her body from showing on-camera.
The video shows that Corley was then laid on the ground, naked below the waist, in a Texaco parking lot. Pierre, the female officer, proceeded to examine Corley with a flashlight for about 11 minutes, allegedly looking for marijuana.
"When one of the Deputies tried to insert her fingers into Ms. Corley’s vagina, Ms. Corley protested," reads the federal lawsuit filed against Harris County. "At that point, the Deputies forcibly threw Ms Corley to the ground, while she was still handcuffed, pinned her down with her legs spread apart, threatened to break her legs and without consent penetrated her vagina in a purported search for marijuana."
After the examination, Corley was arrested by the officers, who charged her with possession of 0.02 ounces of marijuana and resisting arrest. However, the charges were later dropped.
"I’m traumatized," Corley told HuffPost in 2015. "It was humiliating. I feel like the law is supposed to protect you and not do this. I just don’t feel safe anymore. My self-esteem has literally dropped and I can’t even step out and be seen because I feel so embarrassed."
After a similar incident involving the strip search of two women, Texas passed a law requiring officers to have a search warrant before conducting roadside body cavity searches. But the measure was not in place at the time of Corley’s arrest, and went into effect about two months later.
Cammack told The Guardian that he wants an independent prosecutor to take on the case. A federal civil rights trial related to the incident is set to start in January.