An incident that occurred more than two years ago is finally gaining the attention it deserves. Two Texas police officers stopped a young woman, accused of running a red light, then proceeded to perform an eleven-minute roadside cavity search under the assumption she was carrying cannabis. After no criminal action was taken against the officers, newly released dash cam footage might be exactly what the woman needs to find some justice for the extreme violation of her rights.
Twenty-one-year old Charnesia Corley was driving through Harris County, Texas on a June night in 2015 when two Sheriffs pulled her over for running a red light. After the young college student cooperated with the stop, officers claimed to smell cannabis coming from her car. They began searching the car and reported finding .02 ounces of cannabis, that’s about half a gram.
As the group stood in a dark parking lot, with a third Sheriff shining a flashlight on the scene, officers ordered Corley to remove her clothing and prepare for a roadside cavity search. When she understandably hesitated, officers William Strong and Ronaldine Pierre handcuffed her, forced her to the ground and shoved her halfway under her own car. Then, the two officers ripped her pants to her ankles and began inserting fingers inside her.
Despite her cries and begs to stop, newly-released dash cam footage proves the assault lasted for eleven horrifying minutes. The two Sheriffs took turns holding her down, while the other would perform the “search.” A third Sheriff standing there, watching the entire situation unfold, doing nothing to stop it.
Corley was charged with resisting arrest and possession of marijuana. The charges were quickly dropped in August of 2015 after the Harris County prosecutors issued a statement referring to the search as “offensive and shocking.”
Repulsive repercussions for Harris County
In June of 2016, Strong and Pierre were indicted by a Harris County grand jury for official oppression, a charge defined as, “intentionally subjects another to mistreatment or to arrest, detention, search, seizure, dispossession, assessment, or lien that he knows is unlawful.” The two were placed on administrative duty, but remain employed to this day.
Last week, a second grand jury, separate from the original grand jury that charged the officers, dropped the charges after new evidence somehow became available. The proceedings of a grand jury are sealed, meaning there’s no way to know what this new evidence really is.
While Corley and her attorney, Sam Cammack, are preparing a multi-million-dollar civil rights lawsuit against Harris County, the two are shocked by the results of the grand jury. Cammack says the search was “rape by cop” and should in no way be dismissed. He released the dashcam footage in the hopes it would gain attention and public outcry, forcing officials to act.
It is undoubted that they sexually assaulted her. They put their fingers inside her vagina. You can’t pull someone over, think you might find something, and do that to them. These officers did commit a crime, and now it appears they are not being held accountable for their actions.
The search violated Harris County Sheriff’s Office protocol, which states if a cavity search is necessary, then an arrest must be made and the detained taken to a substation where the search can be performed.
According to Rebecca Robertson, the legal and policy director of the Texas ACLU, the search also violated Corley’s Constitutional Rights. Robertson says conducting a cavity search without a warrant is a blatant violation of the fourth amendment, which states individuals have the right to secure themselves and their property against unreasonable search and seizures.
In case that isn’t enough evidence, a law passed in Texas just weeks before Corley’s illegal search states clearly, “a peace officer may not conduct a body cavity search of a person during a traffic stop unless the officer first obtains a search warrant pursuant to this chapter authorizing the body cavity search.”