FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jason Miller
Criminal Justice Organizations Call on Harris County Sheriff, District Attorney to Act on Illegal Body Cavity Search
HOUSTON - Representatives from two organizations advocating for criminal justice reform in Houston will hold a press conference on Friday calling for Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman to immediately take administrative action against three sheriff’s deputies who forcibly conducted an illegal body cavity search publicly on a woman in Harris County. The organization will also demand that Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson investigate the allegation and file any necessary criminal charges against the deputies involved.
The organizations involved are the Houston Justice Coalition and Houston NORML.
The Harris County Sheriff’s deputies have been identified as William Strong, Ronaldine Pierre and R. Rojas. Deputies stopped Charnesia Corley, 21, in North Harris County on June 21, 2015. They claimed she smelled of marijuana, and demanded that she pull down her pants and spread her legs in a public parking lot, according to reports. One of the deputies then began to insert her fingers into Corley’s vagina.
When Corley stood and protested, she was thrown to the ground and a second female deputy was called to the scene. According to Corley’s attorney, Pierre held one leg and sat on her back, while Rojas held her other leg. Both deputies then forced her legs apart and conducted an intrusive search.
The deputies did not have a warrant, and Corley says she did not consent to the search. The search was a clear violation of her Fourth Amendment rights and a violation of a recently passed Texas law requiring a warrant for such a search. Additionally, the president of the Harris County Sheriff Deputies Association told the Houston Chronicle that a public cavity search violates HCSO protocol and such a search should only be conducted at an HCSO substation after a suspect is arrested noting that a microwave scanner can perform the task without intrusion.
She was charged with possession of marijuana and resisting arrest.
The organizations demand that Sheriff Hickman take any necessary action to ensure these deputies do not interact with the public, including administrative suspension.
“Anyone else accused of such an act would be considered an alleged sexual predator. Law enforcement officers should be no different,” says Durrel Douglas, former correctional officer and co-founder of Houston Justice Coalition. “What we’re seeking here is Justice. This case sounds like police brutality at its absolute worse. These officers may be a danger to public safety and should not be patrolling our streets at this time.”
The organizations also request that District Attorney Devon Anderson investigate the incident and file any necessary criminal charges against the deputies. In a similar incident in Dallas County, a Texas State Trooper was fired and indicted on two charges of official oppression and sexual assault. “Atrocities like this should not be happening in our community,” says Jason Miller, executive director of Houston NORML. “This is a blatant violation of our Constitution. When our government has its way, marijuana-smokers have no Fourth Amendment rights whatsoever. They are discriminated against and violently abused over nothing more than mere suspicion of possessing a plant. It has to stop.”
Anderson should also evaluate the criminal charges against Corley and determine whether to drop them.
The press conference will take place at the Harris County Criminal Justice Center located at 1201 Franklin St downtown on Wednesday August 12, at 12pm. Houston NORML is the local chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, which advocates for the rights of marijuana consumers. The Houston Justice Coalition seeks to improve the justice system at the city and state level through community-led, organic, grassroots advocacy.