Tarantino and A Tampon

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
Leila Tarantino, mother of two young children who remained in the car, says  this is what happened in Citrus County, Florida, in a  lawsuit filed in the Middle District of Florida by her lawyer, Michael Sechrest.  Militating in favor of it being true:

  • 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
Militating against it being true:

  • 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
As stories become crazier, it tends to be one of two things. Either the individual is seriously delusional, or the individual is telling the truth.  Given the lawyer’s financial interest in taking on the claim, it would be fair to assume that he believes his client is not seriously delusional.  While it’s possible that the lawyer is also seriously delusional, that wouldn’t be a fair assumption.

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.



10 thoughts on “Tarantino and A Tampon

  1. Zachary

    The sherrif’s department is entitled to the same presumption of innocence as anyone else.
    They don’t have to prove that they’re right, she has to prove that they’re wrong, at least to the standard required by a court.

    From what I’ve read so far, I think it’s fair to say that if the situation was turned around- if the cops were suing someone else for something bizzare- that you personally wouldn’t give their claims the same credibility that you’ve given this woman’s. Cops don’t have to be given special treatment, but you should at least treat them equally. Just because the cops accuse someone doesn’t make the cops a saint and the person a sinner- but neither does it make the cops a sinner and the person a saint.

    It feels like a lot of times you attack cops just because they’re cops. It’s their job to enforce the law, and they’re human. They’ll screw up at about the same rate as everyone else, and they should be held accountable for it. But you shouldn’t presume they’re guilty every single time a case comes up where there’s a question about their conduct, and shouldn’t make them jump through a higher hoop than everyone else.

    I might be mistaken, but the lawyer doesn’t have an incentive to believe her allegations are true. He has an incentive to do two things:
    1. Know that she has the money to pay him.
    2. Know that he has the time to take the case.

    Certainly, if she proves to be off her rocker, his reputation might suffer somewhat, but nowhere near as much as he’d gain in legal fees.

    To my knowledge, I don’t know of any law requiring him to win the case to collect a legal fee. If there is one in Florida, then I apologize.

  2. SHG

    This is a civil case. There is no presumption of innocence involved. The burden of proof is preponderance of the evidence, and can be proven by her testimony alone. The burden then shifts to the sheriff’s department to disprove her testimony.

    Most importantly, this is a contingent fee case (or more particularly, seeks recovery of attorneys fees as provided by statute). The plaintiff is not paying the lawyer for his time.

    I realize law and rules are difficult to understand, but this is why lawyers go to law school.

  3. SHG

    Given the outrageous nature of the allegations, it’s possible. And there’s always a legal fee award if he prevails.

  4. Zachary

    Note: I tried for a few hours to get this comment to post a day or two ago. I decided to try again today. TLDR version near the bottom.

    Understood. I tried to make it clear I don’t really understand the legal mechanics point of view. I don’t want the larger point to be lost, though- it feels like you have a strong anti-police bias, just looking across the selection of articles I’ve seen.

    More to the point: I’ve never heard you say anything positive about the police, ever.

    It feels like you, every time a question arises about police conduct, either assume that they’re guilty, or you place a far, far greater burden on them to prove their innocence than you would place if it was a random person off the street being accused by another random person off the street.

    If this were two people off the street, you’d be- at best- saying the facts were unclear.

    My larger point is, that I don’t think you’re being fair, overall, to police. It’s possible to hold the lawbreakers among them accountable without painting them all with the brush of “police suck”.

    What is incontestible is that they do a difficult, dangerous, and dirty job, and they are forced to walk in a lot of moral and ethical grey areas; sometimes they cross the grey into the clear wrong, and sometimes they make the wrong call while in a grey area.

    But maintaining- essentially- the assumption that all police are dirty, or should all be held in suspicion for even the most routine enforcement, makes them vastly less able to do their job… which makes them more likely to get frustrated and turn to extra-legal means to secure convictions… which makes people believe that they’re dirty.

    It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, essentially, and a self-perpetuating cycle. By treating them with suspicion, and intentionally making their jobs more difficult, you’re driving them to extremes.

    That’s not to say that corruption wouldn’t exist if people trusted police, but that is to say that a policeman’s job is to help. You don’t walk into a therapist’s room assuming they want to bilk you out of money, you don’t walk into a lawyer’s room assuming they want to cheat you, and you don’t walk into a mechanic’s shop assuming he’s playing dirty.

    You want these people to help you, so you- in absence of evidence to the contrary- assume that they’re playing it straight; and even when one or two people out of a thousand are proven dirty, you can separate them from the rest, unless there’s evidence that the problem is systemic.

    TLDR version:
    I guess what I’m looking for would be some reassurance that you don’t think ALL police are dirty; some reassurance that you acknowledge the difficulty of their work, and that they, in general, try to protect and serve the public good.

    Again: that doesn’t absolve them from responsibility, but it should be kept in mind when framing the circumstances of their actions.

  5. SHG

    I’ve written a great many things about cops. Some good, most bad, sometimes about those who oversimplify a complex problem, because that’s what the commentary here is about. If you want to read stories about how wonderful the cops are, there are other places. That’s not what interests me.

    Ironically, while you question whether I’m just a cop hater (I’m not, by the way), the  commenters here are busy lambasting me for going too easy on the cop. Go figure. It’s all perspective.

  6. Zachary

    That was one case where you wrote a fairly neutral article and it did give a fair view of the situation.

    Which pisses people off.

    People who believe the police is all happiness and sunshine will get pissed off because they think you didn’t give the cop a fair chance.

    People who believe the police are all crooks and evil dirty filthy criminals, will get pissed off because they believe you aren’t giving the ‘victim’ a fair chance.

    And the latter far outnumber the former, especially on the internet which is, to borrow a phrase, “a wretched hive of scum and villainy”; or at the very least, a haven for crime and criminals to hide behind a nigh-absolute cloak of anonymity as, to be fair, is their right.

  7. PGE

    So by your theory, I can sue you in civil court and simply claim you raped and murdered my dog and my testimony should be sufficient evidence for a verdict against you??

    You can claim you didn’t do it, but can’t prove it.

  8. SHG

    That’s not theory. That’s the law. Of course, you can claim anything you want, but it doesn’t mean you will win. The burden of proof is on the plaintiff. Whether your testimony would be sufficient to prevail is a separate issue from whether it is legally sufficient in that it establishes all elements of a cause of action.

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