Cavity search victim settles lawsuit with Harris County
HOUSTON (FOX 26) - The dashboard camera images horrified people in the Houston area and throughout the world.
College student Charneisha Corley, handcuffed after a north side traffic stop in a Texaco parking lot, stripped naked, pushed to her knees, head jammed beneath her car, legs forcibly pried apart as female Harris County Sheriff's Office deputies searched her vaginal area for a tiny amount of marijuana.
The ordeal lasted more than eleven excruciating minutes
Corley's lawyer called the search "rape by cop." Deputies claimed they never penetrated the suspect's genitalia and her clothes fell off on their own.
FOX 26 News has now confirmed the settlement of a civil rights lawsuit brought by the young woman against Harris County.
The payout? 185,000 taxpayer dollars!
Harris County Precinct One Commissioner Rodney Ellis felt compelled to offer the following message:
On behalf of myself and the County and the taxpayers in Harris County, I want to say to Miss Corley, I apologize and it really was unfortunate. It was outrageous. I have three daughters, one who is about her age and if that happened to my daughter I'd use all the resources I could muster to try and get justice and send a signal out. Now how the County ended up settling it for this mere pittance, I don't know.
The county's legal position in 2017 improved when criminal indictments against two officers involved were suddenly dropped after District Attorney Kim Ogg presented the case again to a different grand jury, claiming there was new evidence.
Community activist Quanell X says the settlement sends a dangerous message moving forward.
"I think the powers that be are going to say to themselves, if we can do that, something so egregious as sexually assaulting a young woman on the side of the road, who did not deserve that, if we can do that and avoid prosecution and pay crumbs in a settlement, well why should we be concerned or be afraid of anything?," asks Quanell X.
While the incident occurred before Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez took office, he has publicly pledged reform.
That said, all three deputies involved in the cavity search remain on his payroll.
Speaking exclusively to FOX 26, Commissioner Ellis says lessons must be learned from what he sees as a "tragedy."
"I think that the fact that there was a settlement should clearly send out a signal that that type of behavior is not acceptable and if it does happen, if someone is willing to stand up, which was the case of Miss Corley, and fight it, that you can get some measure of justice," says Ellis, who was not serving as a commissioner at the time of the incident.
Why did Corley accept a settlement? When FOX 26 asked her attorney, Sam Cammack, if the decision had anything to do with presiding federal judge Gray Miller's history as a former Houston police officer, he said, "No comment."
Charneisha Corley has also chosen to remain silent about the settlement, at least for now.