Saturday, April 12, 2008
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- "The city of St. Augustine Beach will soon be paying up after settling a lawsuit with three young women who claim they were falsely arrested and strip searched after an underage drinking sting.
Police arrested Flagler College students Kelly Boese, Jessica Wedemyer and Leah Melton in 2006 at a party at a private residence on Oak Road in St. Augustine Beach, where a call to police led to a total of 14 arrests of people accused of possession of alcohol by a minor.
Nearly a year and half later, the three women filed a lawsuit naming the St. Augustine Beach police, the sheriff who runs the jail and two law enforcement officers.
The lawsuit claims that while there was alcohol present at the party, the women had not been drinking, and that a Breathalyzer test confirmed that the 19- and 20-year-old students had not consumed alcohol.
The charges against the women were later dropped. According to documents from the city's insurer, that left them with no defense of the claim. They also reported that the statutes under which the women were charged and arrested were based on an erroneous reading.
The students will receive $100,000 from the city of St. Augustine Beach.
While that part of the suit has been settled, the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office is prepared to fight the lawsuit in court."The sheriff believes that everything that occurred here has been of the appropriate protocol and police," said Sgt. Chuck Mulligan.
The lawsuit claims after Boses, Wedemyer and Melton were arrested, they were taken to the county jail and forced to disrobe before correctional officers and had to put on jail uniforms.
The lawsuit states that was unconstitutional. However, sheriff's office officials said they disagree."What was conducted was a clothing exchange. It's a process where someone does have to shower, but there are mechanisms in place to provide for their privacy. The allegations are that we conducted a strip search. Quite simply, for us a strip search by policy and by definition means that those young ladies would have been removed from the jail and taken to the hospital for an examination," Mulligan said.
He said a strip search is only performed if officers have reasonable suspicion to believe that someone has a weapon or is holding drugs, but that was not the case in the students' situation."
Arresting then strip searching these cute young girls who were not drinking or otherwise breaking ANY law is just fine and dandy, eh Sgt. Mulligan?