New Mexico Police Allegedly Stop Man For Minor Traffic Violation And Use Repeated Digital and Surgical Anal Examinations To Find Drugs . . . And Find Nothing

125px-Flag_of_New_Mexico.svg220px-PVC-HandschuhThere is a highly disturbing case out of New Mexico where David Eckert has filed a federal case against  the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office, police officers with the City of Deming and medical professionals at the Gila Regional Medical Center.  Eckert was stopped on a minor traffic violation and accused by an officer of holding his buttocks.  What followed was a nightmare where officers and doctors subjected Eckert to outrageous abuse as they searched for drugs or contraband in his body.

On January 2, 2013, Eckert had finished shopping at Walmart when he did not stop at a stop sign after leaving the parking lot. I recently wrote about police have used such pretext stops for searches after the Supreme Court refused to consider the motivations of police in such encounters. In this case, Eckert was told to step out of his vehicle for the minor failure to stop. An officer said that he thought Eckert appeared to be clenching his buttocks. This was used as the basis for probable cause that he had drug in his anal cavity and he was taken to a hospital in Deming for an anal exam. The doctor however refused on ethical grounds.

That did not stop the police however. They went to Gila Regional Medical Center in Silver City where doctors appear to have few ethical qualms. They reportedly x-rayed him but found no evidence of drugs. Rather than admit mistake, the doctors were then told to go forward and they explored Exkert’s anus using their fingers. No drugs were found. However, rather than admit their error, they went forward with a second penetration of the anus. No drugs were found. Rather than admit error, they then ordered a third penetration with an enema. He was then forced to defecate in front of witnesses. No drugs were found. They then penetrated his anus with a second enema. He was again forced to defecate in front of witnesses and his stool again inspected. No drugs were found. He was then penetrated a fifth time with a third enema and he was again forced to defecate in front of witnesses. No drugs were found. No willing to admit mistake, he was then sedated and doctors performed a colonoscopy where a scope with a camera was inserted into his anus, rectum, colon, and large intestines. No drugs were found. So to wrap of the account below: we have five manual penetrations; three forced defecations before witnesses; and an intrusive surgery under sedation. All of this was done without consent and without any basis other than an officer saying he looked like he was clenching his buttocks.

The alleged abuse follows the concept of “path dependence” in economics where people will not consider alternatives due to the investments in an original course or concept. When no drugs were found, it seemed to commit the police and doctors to more examinations to justify their actions.

Deming Police Chief Brandon Gigante is qouted as saying “We follow the law in every aspect and we follow policies and protocols that we have in place.” Obviously, those policies and protocols need to be examined.

David Eckert is suing The City of Deming; Deming Police Officers Bobby Orosco, Robert Chavez and Officer Hernandez; Hidalgo County Hidalgo County Deputies David Arredondo, Robert Rodriguez and Patrick Green; Deputy District Attorney Daniel Dougherty;the Gila Regional Medical Center; and doctors Robert Wilcox, M.D and Okay Odocha, M.D.

What is most disturbing is that the police secured a warrant from a judge with the presumed help of the district attorney. So if a person stopped on the most minor traffic stop appears to be clenching, that is considered sufficient for a warrant ordering an anal cavity search. The fact that such warrants are issued is a chilling glimpse into the increasing dominance of police stops and searches in our society — a trend fueled by decisions from the Supreme Court removing constitutional obstacles for police. In addition to barring review of the motivation of officers in pretextual stops, the Court has held that police can now take DNA samples from arrested individuals as a matter of course. It said also ruled that, if you remain silent, prosecutors can now use that silence against you to suggest guilt in a trial. These are only recent decisions that join a massive shift toward police powers in the United States. Citizens are finding themselves subject to the whim of officers in whether they will be allowed to leave or whether they will be searched. Police also now claim the right to handcuff citizens and transport to different locations without it being treated as placing someone into custody.

Just this week, the Supreme Court ruled that police can kick in a gate to pursue a man who ignored an order to stop. The court ruled unanimously to find qualified immunity that failure to stop is sufficient to allow warrantless entries on to property — reversing the Ninth Circuit. The police cited that fact that he was suspected of committing a misdemeanor — failure to obey an officer. In the case of Stanton v. Sims, Officer Mike Stanton was investigating an “unknown disturbance” in La Mesa when Nicholas Patrick entered a yard. Stanton kicked open the gate and hit homeowner, Drendolyn Sims, who struck her forehead on the steps. Sims sued the officer.

The Court noted that the issue is whether it was clear that the entry was unconstitutional, which the Ninth Circuit found in determining the decision was “incompetent”:

There is no suggestion in this case that Officer Stanton knowingly violated the Constitution; the question is whether, in light of precedent existing at the time, he was“plainly incompetent” in entering Sims’ yard to pursue the fleeing Patrick. Id., at ___ (slip op., at 12). The Ninth Circuit concluded that he was. It did so despite the fact that federal and state courts nationwide are sharply divided on the question whether an officer with probable cause to arrest a suspect for a misdemeanor may enter a home without a warrant while in hot pursuit of that suspect.

The Court however declined to answer the question and create a clear line. Instead, it simply found that the confusion, which will continue after this decision, was sufficient to preserve immunity:

We do not express any view on whether Officer Stanton’s entry into Sims’ yard in pursuit of Patrick was constitutional. But whether or not the constitutional rule applied by the court below was correct, it was not “beyonddebate.” al-Kidd, supra, at ___ (slip op., at 9). Stanton may have been mistaken in believing his actions were justified, but he was not “plainly incompetent.” Malley, 475 U. S., at 341.

Here is the per curiam decision.

We have not seen the response of the police to the lawsuit so this account is coming from the complaint without rebuttal or contradiction from the defendants.

Source: KOB

Kudos: Michael Blott

79 thoughts on “New Mexico Police Allegedly Stop Man For Minor Traffic Violation And Use Repeated Digital and Surgical Anal Examinations To Find Drugs . . . And Find Nothing”

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  2. https://www.rutherford.org/publications_resources/john_whiteheads_commentary/whos_to_blame_for_battlefield_america_is_it_militarized_police_or_the_

    “Who’s to Blame for Battlefield America? Is It Militarized Police or the Militarized Culture?”

    By John W. Whitehead
    November 11, 2013

    “It felt like I was in a big video game. It didn’t even faze me, shooting back. It was just natural instinct. Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom!”— Sgt. Sinque Swales, reflecting on a firefight in Iraq

    Excerpt:

    “It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly is responsible for the growing spate of police shootings, brutality and overreach that have come to dominate the news lately, whether it’s due to militarized police, the growing presence of military veterans in law enforcement, the fact that we are a society predisposed to warfare, indoctrinated through video games, reality TV shows, violent action movies and a series of endless wars that have, for younger generations, become life as they know it—or all of the above.

    Whatever the reason, not a week goes by without more reports of hair-raising incidents by militarized police imbued with a take-no-prisoners attitude and a battlefield approach to the communities in which they serve.

    The latest comes out of New Mexico, where cops pulled David Eckert over for allegedly failing to yield to a stop sign at a Wal-Mart parking lot. Suspecting that Eckert was carrying drugs because his “posture [was] erect” and “he kept his legs together,” the officers forced Eckert to undergo an anal cavity search, three enemas, and a colonoscopy. No drugs were found.”

    continues…

  3. Regarding membership in either the AMA or AOA, I don’t think that is a requirement at many hospitals. however, board certification is often a requirement.

  4. Randy,
    I could have sworn I saw a link embedded in a news story about his lawyer having notified the NM medical board. I know I need new glasses, but have not been able to find that again. Regardless, there is no doubt in my mind that the medical board will be involved, whether there is a formal complaint or not. This matter is far too high profile for them to ignore it.

    As for ethics, all health care professionals are not only supposed to have an ethics course in the graduate school curriculum, but most licensing boards require at least four to six hours of continuing education in ethics every year or two. However, I have noticed a wildly disparate variation in both content and quality of such courses over the years.

    As was observed here on this board recently, ethics is knowing what you are supposed to do. Morality is actually doing it.

    1. As was observed here on this board recently, ethics is knowing what you are supposed to do. Morality is actually doing it.

      An excellent phrase to be remembered! Too bad those two doctors had neither.

  5. Randy,
    If a patient says, “No,” that is the end of it, assuming the patient is competent. If the patient is not competent, or suspected to be incompetent, different jurisdictions may have different rules. Ordinarily, if a patient with a life-threatening emergency is unable to give consent, such as in a coma or unconscious, the medical staff is obligated to do what they can, provided a DNR advance directive is not on file. If there is an advance directive to not resuscitate, the staff would be acting unethically if they did use heroic measures against the patient’s wishes.

    If the patient is not in a full blown medical emergency, and is suspected of being non compos mentis, there are procedures in the law to deal with it, one of which is for the court to appoint a guardian ad litem to protect the patient’s legal rights.

    As for the state licensing board, yes indeed they can proceed. In some cases a formal complaint does not even need to be filed. In a case like this, the members of the New Mexico medical and nursing licensing boards would have to be living in a cave not to have heard about it by now. Most professional licensing boards have the legal authority to initiate an investigation sua sponte. Additionally, if the professional is a member of their state or national professional associations, they could end up being kicked out in disgrace.

    Something that most people don’t know; when a professional association begins an investigation, the association ethics committee puts a freeze on the individual’s membership. That keeps them from resigning, or even letting their membership lapse for non-payment of dues until completion of the investigation and any action taken.

    Some professionals are not members of their state or national professional associations. Such membership is, of course, voluntary. Same with board certification in the different specialties. One can legally practice their profession without those memberships and certifications. Some hospitals and other agencies require doctors to be board certified in order to practice at the hospital, but that is an agency requirement, not a state legal requirement. I can tell you that if a doctor has been expelled from professional membership and then applies for hospital privileges anywhere, the credentials committee will look upon the application unfavorably.

    1. OS I read that you heard or saw something that indicated the medical board was investigating this case. If they do not do so, is there any recourse for the victim? Can he force the board to act? If the doctors are not members of the AMA or any professional association, can the hospital force them to resign or lose their privileges.

      I am amazed that these doctors could do such things, but in the case of Odanga, I see that he was educated in Nigeria. I can understand why he would do anything a cop would tell him to do since human rights and the US Constitution are not part of his education. I cannot understand Wilcox not being aware of his ethical duties. Can a doctor get a degree without a course on medical ethics and law in the US?

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