A young woman has accused three Harris County, Texas deputies of sexually assaulting her in public outside of a Texaco gas station in Houston earlier this Summer.
Charnesia Corley, 21, said she was running an errand for her sick mother when a male deputy pulled her over, accusing her of running a stop sign.
The deputy then said he smelled marijuana, which gives law enforcement probable cause to search a vehicle in Texas.
When the deputy could not find anything illegal, he called in a female deputy and ordered Corley to remove her pants. She refused, telling them she was not wearing underwear.
They then forced Corley to bend over, pulling her pants down as the female deputy tried to stick her hand inside Corley’s vagina.
Soon, a second deputy arrived and joined in the attack. The deputies forcibly spread Corley’s legs apart while one of the female deputies stuck her fingers inside the woman’s vagina.
According to The Huffington Post:
“They sexually assaulted, raped me and molested me,” Corley told The Huffington Post on Monday.
Her attorney, Samuel Cammack III, told HuffPost the two deputies asked Corley to remove her pants in full view of passersby.
“She said, ‘No, I don’t have any panties on,’ so the officer told her to bend over and she pulled her pants down for her and went to stick her hand inside of Ms. Corely,” Cammack said.
Corley resisted and the deputies forced her face-first to the ground, Cammack said. The female deputy then climbed onto Corley’s back and pinned her, while the officers awaited the arrival of a second female deputy, according to the lawyer. After the second female deputy arrived, the two women officers held Corley down and forcibly spread her legs, Cammack said.
“One held one leg and the other held the other leg and they stuck their fingers up inside of her,” said Cammack. “This was in a Texaco parking lot, where people were walking by and cars were driving by. This was a very busy area.”
BuzzFeed has identified the male deputy as William Strong and one of the female deputies as Ronaldine Pierre. Houston NORML, an anti-marijuana prohibition group, has identified the other female deputy as R. Rojas.
Harris County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Thomas Gilleland confirmed to KTRK that the incident happened, but claimed that Corley consented.
However, Corley has denied that she consented. Furthermore, the sheriff’s office charged her with resisting arrest and claims she tried to stop the deputies.
The sheriff’s office also told KTRK that they found 0.02 ounces of marijuana on Corley, although it’s unclear where it was located and the incident is no less disturbing even if she was concealing it in her vagina.
Cammack, Corley’s attorney, declined to tell The Guardian where the marijuana was found but said the sheriff’s office claimed to have found it on Corley’s person.
Corley has filed a formal complaint with the sheriff’s office and may file a lawsuit.
Houston NORML has called on the Harris County District Attorney’s Office to investigate the incident “and file any necessary criminal charges against the deputies involved.”
“Atrocities like this should not be happening in our community,” executive director Jason Miller said in a press release. “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.”
PINAC reached out to the district attorney’s office to ask if they will prosecute the deputies. PIO Jeff McShan said that the district attorney’s office is not currently involved in investigating the incident, but will review the sheriff’s office’s files after they complete their internal investigation.
Washington Post writer Radley Balko points out that Texas police have a history of conducting these sorts of body cavity searches in public. In fact, according to Balko, several recent, high-profile examples “prompted the Texas legislature to pass a law that’s supposed to prohibit such searches without a warrant. But that law doesn’t take effect until next month. That the state would need such a law in the first place speaks volumes.”
Phone number for Harris County District Attorney’s Office: 713-755-5800
Email address for Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson: email@example.com