New Mexico Town and County Settle Notorious Cavity Search Case For $1.8 Million

UnknownDeming_NM_sealWe previously discussed the horrific case out of New Mexico involving David Eckert. You may recall that Eckert 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. Before the police released him after finding no drugs, he would endure 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. Now he has reached a settlement with the city of Demin and the Hidalgo County for $1.6 million. He is still proceeding against the doctors and hospital.


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. They then brought in a dog named Leo, a drug-sniffing dog whose certification allegedly expired in April 2011.

This “evidence” 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.

What is most interesting about the stories on the settlement is that there is no mention of officers being criminally charge for the abuse or even fired. They committed unspeakable abuse of this man and now have cost the city and county $1.6 million.

New Mexico Police Chief Brandon Gigante says his officers did everything “by the book” and that there was no need for the slightest discipline. That would suggest that the book needs to go as does Gigante . . . or Deming can continue to pay millions for acts of utter depravity.

43 thoughts on “New Mexico Town and County Settle Notorious Cavity Search Case For $1.8 Million

  1. Contemplating a move to the United States. For that amount of money I’ll let anybody search me for a whole day and make my day, ehh life.

  2. I don’t know which “book” Chief Gigante draws his procedures from but it isn’t one a professional law enforcement agency in this country uses. Gestapo maybe.

    The attitude of Chief Gigante seems to me more like CYA, denial, and face more than justice. Well, now that the locals don’t seem to be interested in this victim’s civil rights, perhaps they would be willing to endure an investigation by the FBI.

  3. I realize this may seem heartless, but it is quite possible that Eckart was tallying up the proceeds from his lawsuit(s) while undergoing these violations. There is no mention of him resisting, demanding a lawyer, to be charged, etc, etc. The question then is, ‘What is a reasonable recompense for this experience?’ and if one had the choice, that is to say, if one could put themselves in this situation, ‘Would you do it?’

  4. Did he get the results of the colonoscopy? If there were any polyps, were they removed? Did he ask? Does this raise the cost of the average colonoscopy in the US?

  5. Absolutely, utterly, completely SICK. Everyone one of the individuals from the Law enforcement and any doctor that took part should be fired on the spot. I hope he gets several more $ Millions from the hospital and Doctors personally.

  6. THIS is what the “War On Drugs” has brought us, not only do we have street thugs selling it, we have police thugs rousting innocent people around.

    We need to stop the war, legalize ALL drugs…and REGULATE THEM!!
    So these freaks aren’t out murdering people on a drug that they don’t even know what is in it.
    And we can have the police thugs STOP THE ABUSE of innocent citizens.

    It took 13 years of prohibition, to find out it was never going to work. They didn’t repeal prohibition because booze was determined to now be healthy for people. They repealed it to get rid of all the killing, crime, & corruption associated with it.

    And all the cost in policing, prosecuting, and imprisoning people.

    We need to do the same with drugs.

  7. Darren Smith said: “Well, now that the locals don’t seem to be interested in this victim’s civil rights, perhaps they would be willing to endure an investigation by the FBI.”

    Wanna bet that not filing a Federal civil rights case was part of the settlement?

    The hospital has much deeper pockets anyway. I’d like to see the doctor in charge of this rape loose his or her license.

  8. Houstonian, America is gone. We need to come up with a new name for this country we live in – and a new slogan since it’s no longer the land of the free.

    John is right. But it will never happen because too many powerful people in high places are making money from putting drug “offenders” in their privately owned prisons.

  9. Isaac, Your thoughts on the plaintiff thinking about a lawsuit as he was going through this are almost certainly incorrect. I would put the odds @ that being 10,000-1 I’m heading to Vegas so odds are in my head.

  10. Well,Hurrah! Hopefully he gets some or all of that compensation money soon, without further appeal or delay. Those with another opinion probably did not follow the story from before, but can catch up with a full read of the blog now. One hopes a lesson is learned too & no repeat performance connected to that city. The sum has to be that size to wake them up & clamp down on any possible future abuse, always remembering it is taxpayers who foot the bill, unless they keep on doing that kind of thing until the city is broke & has to renege on its staff pension plan like Detroit. Actually $1.8m is just a little larger than chump change for governments of that size, but it should make a big difference to the victim if he is regular middle or working class and not already rich.

  11. The video reports the search warrant was not valid for the county where the medical exam took place.

    Also that the hospital is threatening to take the victim to collection by forcing the cost of these procedures on him, no way in my view. This wasn’t the case where the victim was in a car accident and the police brought him to the hospital for treatment. The victim did not consent to this procedure it was done on behest of the police department conducting their own investigation. The hospital needs to bill the city.

    If the hospital just x-rayed the victim and said “nothing there.” I would say they could have qualified immunity in that they did what they thought was proper according to the search warrant but the degree they repeatedly went to, it gets more incriminating to them in my view.

  12. What Darren said. These officers and their out of control boss need to be looking at prosecution and at the least, looking for new jobs. I agree that the war on drugs is nonsensical and we would save more money in the long run by treating drug users instead of imprisoning them. I hope the hospital has some deep pockets, because they are going to need them.

  13. But if Eckert had died as a direct consequence of these searches, his survivors would be lucky to win $100,000 for loss of consortium. So we see incentive to search harder!

  14. Now that the city and county are paying up, there is no rational reason for the DA there to not get back some of that money from those cops. The DA needs to charge and prosecute the cops, and doctors with criminal charges. If he fails to do that, the poor guy needs to go to the US Attorney for that area, and charge all concerned with torture, and violation of his civil rights. Once the cops are in prison, and the doctors lose their medical licenses, and join them in prison, then we might be a bit safer.

  15. I have a feeling, after a settlement like that and this chief still rambling on like that, he’ll be out of a job soon.

  16. http://www.cityofdeming.org/business-in-deming/public-safety/deming-police-department/118-deming-police-department

    Deming Police Department
    Tuesday, 14 September 2010 09:38

    “Mission Statement

    All members of the Deming Police Department believe in responsibility of our police, governmental bodies and citizens to improve Deming’s quality of life and defend our community. Officers have taken an oath of office and vowed to protect our citizen’s lives, property and rights, fairly enforce the laws of the City of Deming, the State of New Mexico and the Constitution of the United States. Working together with all of the citizens of our community, we will work to maintain order, reduce crime and the fear of crime through education, prevention, and enforcement to provide safe environment and proud society.”

    And this:

    “The climate and beauty of Luna county beckons you. It is a joy to live, do business, or experience a visit to our area.”

  17. These cops seem to try to conform to a cartoon of some sort. Fat, shaved head, rambling, and set on stomping on humans.

    The taxpayers deserve to pay for this. This is what democracy is all about. If you dumb voters elect schmucks who hire a fat, shaved headed, donkey to be your police chief and he anally rapes some innocent car driver then you need to all pay. Pay out the arse so to speak.

    There is a Chinese novel about a similar case which has been alluded to in these blogs. Three Spots On The Wall, by Who Flung Fu. Copyright 1965 by Bingham Press. 345 pp. Can be found on Amazon. The Chief cop reminds me of Fu. Went in dumb, come out dumb too.

  18. The medical professionals who were assesories in this crime, should be shaking in their lab coats. I certainly hope they get more than just a slap on the wrist. I’m reminded of the Texas hospital that is keeping a brain dead woman on life support because of a state law that is being misinterpreted, regarding advanced directives and a pregnant patient. The family is now suing the hospital, I hope they get a huge settlement or reward. Hospitals, police departments and various agencies seem to feel they can get away with trampling on the rights of Americans.

  19. What a nightmare. Gigante and the officers/doctors involved should all be forced to undergo a deep anal probe with a heated curling iron.

  20. Sorry Simms This is not even close to the New Mexico one. The US border is an exception and they did have more than enough probable cause since the drug dog is more than likely current on certification. You do not have an expectation of privacy or release from search when crossing any international border.

  21. randyjet,

    I know it’s not close to the Eckert case, but it’s significant because the doctors allegedly performed the procedures without a search warrant and without consent. The first additional case I posted is significant because it involved police in the same New Mexico county who took the suspect to the Gila Regional Medical Center, the same one in the Eckert case.

    It’s alarming that both medical facilities are unwilling to stand up to the police. I would sympathize (but still not agree) with a small local clinic not being able to stand up for their patients rights, but these are large facilities with a significant amount of legal representation. The medical staff in these cases just couldn’t be bothered.

  22. This is why we call The US, the exceptional country. We have shown our exceptionalism in this very eye opener or shall I add cavity opener.

  23. Sims, This reminds me of the Avianca plane crash at JFK a number of years ago. It came from a known drug haven, and they rescued a number of pax who were seriously injured in the crash. During the exams, they discovered through X rays that a number of them had swallowed balloons filled with drugs. They held them under observation until they passed the drugs. I think that is entirely permissible and correct. I will agree that the procedures used on this woman probably exceeded humane law enforcement procedures, and that such should be used only when there is something like an X-ray indicates a need for what was done to her.

  24. I can only repeat what I said on the thread when we first learned of this horror: Why can’t I ever get a case like this?

  25. MikeA, You need gophers combing police reports and sources in ER’s. When I was @ police depts. I would see regular gophers looking through all the reports for plaintiff attorneys.

  26. [What is most interesting about the stories on the settlement is that there is no mention of officers being criminally charge for the abuse or even fired. They committed unspeakable abuse of this man and now have cost the city and county $1.6 million.]

    Exactly. The police officers and all parties who performed the illegal search and only those people should be 100% liable criminally and civilly. The city shouldn’t have to pay a dime.

    I don’t agree that the employer should be liable for their employees’ actions unless they knew about and allowed the actions or perhaps if they didn’t do enough to prevent the actions.

    If a manager of a store refuses to hire you because of a protected status, the manager should be liable for the violation of your civil rights, not the employer who doesn’t agree with such actions and whose rules explicitly state that such discrimination is not allowed.

    2 guys open an airline passengers bag, taking out a sex toy and taping it to the outside of the bag should be liable, not the airline.

    Some person rear ends you, they should be liable not the owner of the car.

    Suing the city will not prevent future activities such as this from happening. If anything it will make damn sure they happen again.

    If I can get 1.6 million from the city and another couple of million from the hospital, I am more than willing to undergo an enema and cavity search.

    I would be willing to pay a police officer $500,000 to make this happen. Perhaps more depending on how much we can get.

  27. Thank you for the followup story Jonathan.

    Question: was it $1.8 or $1.6 million? Your headline and story don’t agree on the number.

  28. My brother, who is a recently retired police officer (from Florida), and who feels that the police can do no wrong, said after I told him about this that the city and those officers would be writing checks to the victim and that the officers and doctors involved should be in jail. As soon as I told him the warrant was for Luna county and the exam done in Grant, he was done- he said that was enough to end it right there. He looked into it and told me that, with the dog’s certification being expired (for which he felt there was no excuse), as far as he was concerned the search was invalid. My family owns property just outside of Deming, and we thought of it as a nice town. We don’t know the police department but we do know the sheriff and several deputies. I just don’t see the sheriff putting up with this kind of behavior, and I am very surprised to see the police chief trying to excuse it.

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