Representatives from two organizations advocating for criminal justice reform in Houston will hold a press conference Thursday 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 on a woman in Houston. The organizations will also call for Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson to 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. The incident occurred on June 21 in North Harris County when a deputy stopped 21-year-old Charnesia Corley for allegedly running a stop sign. They claimed she smelled of marijuana, and demanded 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, R. Pierre held one leg and sat on her back, while R. Rojas held her other leg. Both deputies then forced her legs apart and conducted an intrusive manual cavity search.
The deputies did not have a warrant, and Corley says she did not consent to the search. The organizations note that 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.
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 worst. 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.
"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 law enforcement has its way, marijuana-smokers are afforded 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."
The press conference will take place at the Harris County Criminal Justice Center located at 1201 Franklin St downtown on Thursday August 13, at 11am.
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.