Marine veteran files lawsuit after video shows her being forcibly stripped by officers

CHICAGO (AP) - A federal lawsuit was filed Tuesday by a woman who claims LaSalle County sheriff's deputies violated her civil rights when they forcibly stripped her following a 2017 arrest.

The attorney for Zandrea Askew said three female deputies stripped the former Marine sergeant on Jan. 20, 2017, after she refused to cooperate with authorities after she was arrested.

Askew was arrested after deputies reported finding her "very disoriented and confused" in her car on the side of the road. Court records show misdemeanor DUI and resisting arrest charges were later dropped after it was determined authorities lacked sufficient evidence to make the traffic arrest.

Attorney Terry Ekl said Askew pulled her car over because she was ill. Ekl said his client did not break any traffic laws and cooperated with the deputies' instructions, including being "thoroughly searched" by two male deputies on the side of the road before being transported to the hospital for a DUI blood draw.

Askew passed field sobriety tests before her arrest but appeared disoriented and told deputies she had taken prescription medication, according to the arresting deputy's incident report.

Askew, who lived in New Jersey at the time, was heading to Nevada to visit friends at the time, according to Ekl. She now lives in Pennsylvania.

Ekl said he has asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the sheriff's office regarding strip-searches.

"Why do you need to take someone's clothes off if they're not cooperating with you?" Ekl said. "This was not a strip-search where they were looking for contraband. This was a form of punishment."

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court by Askew, 28, accuses Sheriff Thomas Templeton and deputies of unlawful detention, false arrest and excessive force among other civil rights violations. The lawsuit contends the incident reflects a longstanding practice in the sheriff's office to strip inmates that persists despite public promises to update policies and improve training.

Templeton refused to comment Tuesday on the advice of LaSalle County's lawyers.

The LaSalle County sheriff's office was sued in 2013 over allegations that four women and a man were strip-searched. One woman alleged images of her naked body were seen on the LaSalle County Jail's video system after a drunken driving arrest.

Ekl filed a class-action lawsuit and the county settled for $355,000 in April 2014. A grand jury investigating the deputies in that case cleared them of criminal wrongdoing.