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Police Cite “Clenched Buttocks” As Probable Cause to Conduct 14 Hour Cavity Search On Man

Published: November 5, 2013
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A New Mexico man was pulling out of a parking lot when he failed to make a complete stop at a stop sign. When he saw police lights behind him he probably thought, like most people, that this would end in a warning or perhaps a minor citation. He didn’t expect it would spiral into a nearly day long ordeal where he would be subjected to increasingly intrusive cavity searches over accusations that he was hiding drugs in his anus.

It all started when upon pulling David Eckert over, New Mexico police asked the man to step out of the car. That’s when they claim “[Eckert] appeared to be clenching his buttocks.” From that they said they had probable cause for searching for drugs on – and in – the man.

Eckert says he was then taken to a nearby emergency room to have the invasive search completed. When a doctor at that facility refused, police took Eckert to another medical center willing to conduct the procedure. [source]

The New Mexico police are nothing if not persistent. After driving Eckert to another medical center the police and medical staff subjected him to the following humiliating – and ultimately fruitless – procedures.  From KOB-4:

1. Eckert’s abdominal area was x-rayed; no narcotics were found.

2. Doctors then performed an exam of Eckert’s anus with their fingers; no narcotics were found.

3. Doctors performed a second exam of Eckert’s anus with their fingers; no narcotics were found.

4. Doctors penetrated Eckert’s anus to insert an enema.  Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers.  Eckert watched as doctors searched his stool.  No narcotics were found.

5. Doctors penetrated Eckert’s anus to insert an enema a second time.  Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers.  Eckert watched as doctors searched his stool.  No narcotics were found.

6. Doctors penetrated Eckert’s anus to insert an enema a third time.  Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers.  Eckert watched as doctors searched his stool.  No narcotics were found.

7. Doctors then x-rayed Eckert again; no narcotics were found.

8. Doctors prepared Eckert for surgery, sedated him, and then performed a colonoscopy where a scope with a camera was inserted into Eckert’s anus, rectum, colon, and large intestines.  No narcotics were found.

The summary would be comical if it weren’t so awful. According to a lawsuit filed against the police department by Eckert, not once did he give consent for any of these procedures. No illegal drugs were ever found on Eckert who, if you recall, had broken the law only insofar as having rolled through a parking lot’s stop sign. We aren’t talking about Pablo Escobar here.

There are also concerns over how the warrant for the search was authorized and carried out. As Eckert’s lawyer, Shannon Kennedy, points out:

The search warrant was overly broad and lacked probable cause.  But beyond that, the warrant was only valid in Luna County, where Deming is located.  The Gila Regional Medical Center is in Grant County.  That means all of the medical procedures were performed illegally and the doctors who performed the procedures did so with no legal basis and no consent from the patient.

In addition, even if the search warrant was executed in the correct New Mexico county, the warrant expired at 10 p.m.  Medical records show the prepping for the colonoscopy started at 1 a.m. the following day, three hours after the warrant expired.

“This is like something out of a science fiction film, anal probing by government officials and public employees,” Kennedy said.

So far no disciplinary action has taken place against the individual officers, the police department as a whole, nor the doctors who illegally performed the medical procedures. Police Chief Brandon Gigante has declined to comment specifically about this incident but said more vaguely that he and his officers  “follow the law in every aspect and we follow policies and protocols that we have in place.”

Somehow that does little to ease fears that this New Mexico town has decided that how you walk or stand makes you a drug smuggling suspect requiring intrusive searches.

Watch the KOB-4 coverage of the story below:

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