The two women, both from Irving, Texas, are suing Trooper Kelley Helleson, Trooper David Farrell, and the director of the Department of Public Safety for what they say was an unconstitutional search without probable cause, report Frank Heinz and Ken Kalthoff at NBC DFW.
Agency director Steve McCraw has made a “preliminary determination” to fire Trooper Kelley Helleson, according to DPS spokesman Tom Vinger. Vinger, in a Wednesday statement, claimed Helleson “will have the opportunity to meet with McCraw” before she gets the axe.
Helleson and Ferrell in December were put on paid suspension as the case awaits review by a Dallas County grand jury.Angel Dobbs and her niece, Ashley Dobbs, were driving along State Highway 161 on July 13 last year when they were pulled over by Farrell for littering. In the dash camera video released by the women and their lawyer, Farrell is heard telling the women they would both be ticketed for throwing cigarette butts out of the car window.
Farrell then returned to his cruiser and can be heard calling female Trooper Helleson to the scene to search both women, whom Farrell claimed were “acting weird.”
While waiting for Helleson’s arrival, Farrell asked Angel to step out of the car and began asking about her marijuana use. He is heard in the video telling Dobbs he “smelled marijuana” coming from the vehicle while asking her, several times, how much weed was in the car.
After Trooper Helleson arrived, she can be seen in the video donning blue latex gloves to conduct a cavity search of both women. When Angel asked about the gloves, Helleson “told her not to worry about that,” according to the lawsuit [PDF].
Dobbs said Trooper Helleson conducted the cavity search on the roadside, probing the anuses and vaginas of the two women in the police car’s headlights, in full view of passing motorists.
“This has been an eye-opening experience for me,” Angel said on the video. “I’ve never been pulled over, never searched like this. I was totally violated over there a few minutes ago… This is so embarrassing to me.”“I’ve never been so humiliated or so violated or felt so molested in my entire life,” she told NBC 5.
Dobbs said she never consented for Helleson to “frisk, pat-down, search or otherwise touch her” and that she never gave consent to Farrell to search her vehicle, which he can be seen doing in the dashcam video while the rough cavity search was underway.
“What are you going to say?” Dobbs mused. “What’s going to happen to you if you challenge that authority?”
After the cavity search, Farrell asked Dobbs about prescription medicines found in the car. Dobbs said they were for migraines and for her thyroid. According to the lawsuit, Dobbs also suffers from an anal cyst which was irritated by the search.
Meanwhile, on the video, Helleson can then be seen performing the same aggressive cavity search on Dobbs’ niece, Ashley.
“It’s because somebody is a daily smoker in that car,” Farrell is heard saying in the recording. “OK, you can attribute it to that.”
According to the lawsuit, Trooper Helleson aggressively touched both women on the anus and vagina, without changing latex gloves between the searches.
“I don’t think anybody needs to have to feel, or go through what we went through,” Ashley said. “It crosses my mind every day. It’s humiliating.”
After tossing the car and finding nothing illegal, Farrell then administered a sobriety test, which Dobbs passed, according to the lawsuit. The women were then issued warnings for littering and released at the scene.
A bottle of prescribed hydrocodone was missing from Dobbs’ car and purse after the search, according to the lawsuit. The women returned to the scene of the traffic stop the next day to search for the pills, but they were nowhere to be found.
A complaint about the illegal search was filed in August, but the DPS Texas Rangers who investigated the case ignored it, according to the lawyers.
“This is outside the constitutional grounds by a mile,” said attorney Scott Palmer. “It’s not even close. This has to stop. These two need to be stopped. There’s no telling how many other people they’ve done this to, and we hope that others come forward.”
“What we’re dealing with is a Class C misdemeanor,” said attorney Charles Soechting Jr., whose father was a DPS Trooper. “It does not justify any type of pat-down, let alone an invasive search of the cavities of women.”
The women are asking for a trial by jury, and plan to demand unspecified compensatory and exemplary damages and interest, as well as recovery of attorney’s fees and court costs.
DPS would not comment on the case.
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