State Charges Dropped in Hope Steffey Case
Posted by shadmia on June 20, 2008
According to a grand jury, Stark County deputies committed no criminal acts while arresting Hope Steffey two years ago. Nancy H. Rogers, Ohio attorney general, issued a statement saying that a Stark County grand jury did not hand down any indictments after reviewing the evidence presented by the state’s Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation Special Prosecution Sections.
The Steffey case was investigtated by Paul Scarsella, the Chief of the Special Prosecutions Section for the Attorney General’s Office where he manages 4 attorneys and support staff. He was assisted by Bridget Carty, Public Integrity Unit Coordinator, and an Assistant Attorney General in the Special Prosecutions Section.
The Special prosecutors, Paul Scarsella and Bridget Carty, said the incident, in which male and female deputies forcibly removed Steffey’s clothes at the Stark County jail, was a suicide precaution. They said the deputies were only following a medical order given by a doctor on duty to remove her clothes. Though the jail has suicide suits for inmates to wear, prosecutor Scarscella said Steffey was not immediately given one because even the suit was deemed too dangerous for her to have.
The Special prosecutors presented the results of their investigation to the grand jury without interviewing Hope Steffey. They said they were unwilling to interview her with her lawyers present, as she requested. Steffey did however appear before the grand jury. The grand jury declined to indict the deputies involved.
Steffey denied that she was suicidal or was given the opportunity to remove her clothes herself. There is no policy that prevents men from removing a female inmate’s clothes during a suicide precaution situation. Men are however prevented from strip-searching a female inmate.
However, the findings of this grand jury will have no bearing on the federal lawsuit that Hope Steffey filed on Oct. 2007, accusing Stark County deputies of violating her civil rights by assaulting, strip-searching and leaving her injured and naked for six hours in a Stark County jail cell. She had to use toilet paper to cover herself. Defendants in the case are Swanson, Deputy Sheriff Richard T. Gurlea Jr. and one to 15 other “John and Jane Does” employed at the Stark County Jail, and the Stark County commissioners. That case is scheduled to go to trial in December.
Below is the video (in 2 parts) which documents Hope’s experience at the hands of the Stark County Sheriff’s Dept. The video is graphic (you’ve been warned!!)
Whether or not the videotape was presented to the state grand jury will probably never be known, since the deliberations of grand juries are held in secret. But it is certain to be part of the civil case to be heard in federal court. Steffey’s attorneys are now under federal court order to not discuss the case. But they have argued that the force used by deputies, and seen on the videotape, was brutal and unnecessary.