Warning: This post contains graphic content that may be disturbing to some readers.
A Texas woman who alleges she endured an 11-minute body cavity search amounting to “rape by cop” believes newly released dashcam footage can prove her case, according to KPRC in Houston.
The video was recorded two years ago after Harris County deputies pulled Charnesia Corley over for allegedly running a red light, but it was only released this month by her lawyer after the local District Attorney’s office dropped charges against two of the deputies involved in the incident.
Corley, who was a 21-year-old college student at the time of the strip search, says she feels she was sexually assaulted.
“They’re supposed to protect you. They’re supposed to keep you safe — not rape you, and that’s how I feel,” she told KPRC. “I feel like I was raped.”
Her attorney told Houston’s KRIV she had no criminal history and had “never been in trouble.”
The traffic stop occurred in a Texaco parking lot where others were present, according to KRIV. When the first deputy approached her car, he said he smelled marijuana — which is probable cause to perform a vehicle search in Texas.
After deputies discovered nothing in her car or clothing, Corley was handcuffed. A female deputy patted her down, fully removed her pants then began what Corley calls an invasive and humiliating strip search.
“And she tells me just bend over — I hesitate. When she shines her light on me, and she proceeds to stick her fingers toward my vaginal area, I immediately pop up like, ‘Ma’am what are you doing?'” Corley recounted.
The video shows her on the ground, naked from the waist down with her legs pinned behind her for nearly 11 minutes while two female deputies “search” her.
“She grabs me by handcuffs and she just slams me on ground, puts her knee in back and she just shoves fingers up inside of me,” Corley later described.
In the full video, Corley can be heard telling the deputies, “That was extreme, to pull my clothes down, in front of people. People were watching. You didn’t see people walking around?” according to the Huffington Post.
A law prohibiting officers from conducting roadside body cavity searches without a warrant went into effect in Texas two months after her arrest.
Investigators said they found 0.02 ounces of marijuana on Corley, though her attorney disputed that, saying there was no marijuana, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Corley was subsequently charged with marijuana possession and resisting arrest, but both charges were later dismissed by the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.
Under that DA’s administration, two deputies involved were also indicted for official oppression by a grand jury. The third deputy present was never involved, and all three remain on the sheriff’s department’s force, KRIV reported.
But on Aug. 4 the Harris County DA’s Office, now under new leadership, dismissed the charges and immediately announced it had taken the case to a second grand jury, which no-billed the deputies. DA’s officials said the case was represented because “new evidence” was found.
Natasha Sinclair, a representative for the DA, said although the search was improper it may not meet the standards for a criminal indictment.
“No one in this office stands by the search the way it was conducted. No one condones that. No one thinks it’s appropriate. It should not have happened,” she told KRIV. “However bad decisions, bad judgment may not rise the level of a criminal offense.”
Officials declined to state what new evidence existed, citing the secrecy of grand jury proceedings. Corley told Houston station KTRK the alleged new evidence consisted of medical records the state already had.
Her attorney says the only evidence that matters is the dashcam video.
“They claim they found something but it doesn’t matter at the end of the day what they found because what they did to find it was illegal,” he said.
Corley has filed a civil rights lawsuit that is set to go to trial in January.