The laundry list of shocking major allegations is long:
- An approach following a rolling stop with gun drawn
- Strip search for an alleged rolling stop
- Strip search on the side of a public road
- Strip search in front of her children
- Second strip search
- Forcible removal of a tampon
- Michael Sechrest wants to earn a legal fee
- This is not going to be a quick settlement for nuisance value
- Given the outrageous nature of the allegations, Sechrest certainly conducted a significant investigation before putting his name on the complaint and is confident that his client’s story is both accurate and provable
- The Sheriff hasn’t produced a dash cam video of the stop to disprove the allegations
- The Citrus County Sheriff’s Department vehemently denies it
- No witnesses have come forward to say to say they were on that busy street and saw a woman being strip searched
- There is no video to prove it happened
Many who read about Leila Tarantino’s complaint have responded (see the comments to the HuffPo story) that it’s the sort of thing that happens in Citrus County, Florida, and hardly as outrageous as it seems to outsiders.
Others chalk this up to another lawyer and claimant out to make a quick buck. This is silly, as there is no quick buck to be made in this case. This is a bet the farm case for the Citrus County Sheriff’s Department, and one would anticipate they will fight this complaint to the death.
Notably, the sheriff’s office concedes that a stop occurred, but adamantly denies that any strip search was conducted or that a tampon was forcibly removed.
“The Citrus County Sheriff’s Office wants to go on record as saying the allegations made in this lawsuit are not only ludicrous, but completely untrue. Yes, a traffic stop was conducted on July 17, 2011. The plaintiff was issued a criminal citation for violation of restrictions on her driver’s license. She also was issued a written warning for rolling through a stop sign.
No strip search was conducted, and the plaintiff’s tampon was never forcibly removed by any deputy.
It is the Sheriff’s Office intent to aggressively defend itself against these malicious allegations.
As required by the police handbook and the ABC Affiliate “never piss off the cops” policy manual, the obligatory irrelevant smear of the claimant was thrown in at the end.
Tarantino has been arrested multiple times in the past for drug possession, driving under the influence and domestic battery.
Whether this revelation is included for the purpose of proving that she deserved whatever happened or that “she must be high” isn’t clear. It is curious that they elected to mention domestic battery, given that this is a sheriff’s department, for whom domestic battery is an occupational hazard.
It’s possible that the understanding of strip search differs from the police to the lawyer and his client. Perhaps the police understand it to be the full removal of all garments, while Tarantino believes it to be the removal of something less than everything. There is some wiggle room in the relative use of the phrase strip search, and the removal of some garment may not equate to the police view of squat and spread as the sine qua non of a strip search.
It’s harder to explain the forcible removal of a tampon, however. Does this mean that the female officer, one of six present, commanded Tarantino to remove her own tampon, or does it mean that the officer physically did the removal? The latter is not merely gross, but truly bizarre.
One would assume that some passerby would come forward to confirm at least part of Tarantino’s allegations. Unless, of course, people are strip searched on the side of the road in Citrus County so regularly that no one would make note of it. Or no one wants to make enemies for life with their local sheriff’s department, just in case they need them some day or find themselves inadvertently rolling through a stop sign.
All things considered, it seems more likely than not that the claims of Leila Tarantino are true, at least as far as she and her lawyer understand their allegations. Of course, if it’s as ludicrous as the sheriff’s department claims, there is always the dash cam video to show that she’s out of her mind and none of this ever happened.
Leila Tarantino and her lawyer, Michael Sechrest, have laid their cards on the table. It’s up to the sheriff’s department to do the same. Denials notwithstanding, the ball is in their court to show that this is not merely crazy, but false.