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02/22/08

Permalink 01:16:20 pm, Categories: Voices, 4194 words    

Hope Steffey's 'Abu Ghraib' Treatment at the Stark County Jail

Schuyler Ebbets

The video obtained by Hope Steffey's lawyer and released to the public represents only a fraction of Hope's actual torture by the Stark County sheriffs department in Ohio. The video is difficult to watch, but it's very important for people, particularly Americans, to know that this outrageous crime has taken place in their country. The legal outcome of this case could determine what kind of country the United States becomes. If this level of injustice and brutality towards American citizens by their own law enforcement agencies and legal system is condoned and not corrected, the real possibility of humiliating and painful torture exists for all Americans.


The disappearing, reappearing blue blanket proves
the two scenes happened at different times.
There is a short scene in the video near the beginning of Hope's ordeal which takes place in a cell where she is later tortured unspeakably. In this short scene Hope is naked lying face down diagonally across an eight- inch thick concrete sleeping platform, which is partially covered by a blue blanket. The women deputies are given a signal by one of the male deputies to leave the cell. A male deputy has Hope's left arm twisted behind her back forcing her down on the platform, but she pushes herself up with her right hand and looks to her right, seeing men around her, Hope screams in fear. This scene has been spliced in with the other scenes of Hope's cruel torture to make it appear as though her tormentors occasionally stop inflicting pain on her. In the scene Hope is up on one hand screaming defiantly and the men standing around her, touching her, haven't started hurting her yet. In reality there is no such respite, once the torture begins it is constant unrelenting and brutal.

Hope Steffey's near fatal journey into state depravity began on October 20, 2006, at approximately 7:54 p.m. Hope had been assaulted by her cousin, Leann Preston near 1154 Weimer Dr., SE in Stark County, Ohio. Nehemiah Preston, Hope Steffey's second cousin, reported the incident to the Stark County Sheriff's Department with a 9-1-1 call for help. Sheriff's deputy Richard T. Gurlea was dispatched to the scene of the assault. When Gurlea arrived he asked Hope for her identification. Hope mistakenly gave Gurlea her deceased sister's driver's license, which she had been keeping in her wallet with her own license as a personal memento and reminder of her sister. Hope immediately realized her mistake and asked deputy Gurlea to return her sister's license, but Gurlea refused. Hope handed Gurlea her own license and explained to him that the identification was her deceased sister's license. While Gurlea ran a computer check on Hope, she pleaded with him for the return of her sister's license, but he still refused.

Hope's cousin and friend, Trinette Zorger, who was present when Gurlea arrived, noticed a bald spot about the size of a quarter on Hope's head. Leanne had torn out a hand full of Hope's hair which was laying in a clump on the ground. Trinette told Gurlea that Hope had been the victim of Leanne's assault. Although Leanne had injured Hope, Gurlea did not call for medical assistance. Hope was extremely upset by the assault and Gurlea warned her to calm down. Hope told Gurlea that she was angry and could exercise her freedom of speech. Trinette reminded Gurlea that Hope had just been assaulted, which was the reason the Sheriff's Department had been called in the first place. Trinette explained to Gurlea that Leanne had literally knocked Hope unconscious and that Hope was acting uncharacteristically loud and angry for this reason. Gurlea would not acknowledge Hope's injuries or call for medical help and he seemed to ignore what Trinette and Hope told him, treating Hope as a criminal rather than a victim.

Gurlea ordered Hope to stand by his cruiser. Hope tried to speak to Gurlea, but he told her to remain silent. Hope, once again attempted to explain that she desperately wanted her deceased sister's license returned. Gurlea angrily responded by telling Hope, "shut up about your dead sister." Hope then pointed her finger at Gurlea's shirt pocket, where he had put her sister's license, and said, "She was here, she was someone". Without provocation, Gurlea exploded in rage, seized Hope and slammed her face down onto the hood of his police cruiser cracking one of her teeth. He held her pinned against the cruiser with his pelvic area while mashing her face against the hood of the car and said, "Are you going to stop?" Before Hope could speak, Gurlea twisted her arm high up behind her back, nearly breaking it, which caused her excruciating pain. He then picked the 120-pound woman up off the ground and slammed her face-first into the dirt road, smashing her nose, causing numerous bruises and abrasions. Gurlea leapt into the air and landed on top of Hope's back with his body weight, pounding the air out of her lungs and stomach. With his knee in her back, Gurlea once again asked, "Are you going to stop?"

Blood ran profusely from Hope’s nose and flowed down over her mouth and chin and dripped onto the dirt road. Hope laid face down in the road completely unable to move and unable to breathe. She was suffocating under Deputy Gurlea's weight. He was killing her, inducing coma and death. Hope's cousin Trinette saw the look on Hope's face, and she screamed at Gurlea, "She can't breathe, let her go, you're hurting her!" Only then did Gurlea climb off of Hope. She had only taken a few shallow breaths of air when Gurlea yanked her up on her feet. The blood from Hope’s nose ran down her face and neck. Gurlea pulled her arms behind her back, put handcuffs on her, shoved her in the back of his patrol car and called for backup.

The bruised, injured, and bleeding, Hope Steffey, was carted off to the Stark County Sheriff's office and jail to answer questions. Upon her arrival at the jail, Gurlea left Hope in his cruiser for a few minutes while he spoke with another deputy. It isn’t known what was said by Gurlea to the other deputy. Gurlea then returned to the patrol car and told Hope to do exactly what the Sheriff's staff said she should do and she would probably be going home that evening.

Individuals under contract with the Stark County Sheriff's Department and its Jail Division - sheriff's deputies, took Hope into a small room and told her to face the wall. There were approximately six male and female sheriff's deputies, two or more males and four or more females that surrounded her. Hope was asked if she had any weapons or sharp objects. She told them no and was led into a prison cell. Hope was then told to stand on a line, face the front wall and answer a nurse's questions. Hope was asked: "Have you thought of harming yourself?" Hope replied, "Now or ever?" She immediately heard one of the sheriff's deputies beside her say something, and as she turned to look at that person, her legs were knocked out from under her and she was both pushed and fell, face first, on the concrete floor. The force used by the sheriff's deputies was designed to inflict pain and to punish. While Hope lay on the floor dazed and helpless someone grabbed the hair on the back of her head and pushed her face down into the floor. Someone else was kneeling on her back while each of her arms were held by a third and fourth person, and people held her legs and ankles. No warning was ever given by Hope's assailants. Hope realized that without her consent, she was being physically violated. Her clothes were being stripped off her body. Her jeans were forcibly removed. Her underwear shirt and bra was forcibly removed. Hope felt as though she was being raped. She begged and pleaded with the men and women deputes to stop and she asked them why they were doing this to her, but they ignored her.


In link one, in the top photo under the podblanc logo the male deputy signals the women deputies to leave the cell.

After they had removed all of Hope's clothes the women deputies were given a signal by one of the male deputies to leave the cell. Hope was lying naked face down diagonally across the eight- inch thick concrete sleeping platform, which was partially covered by a blue blanket with two gray cushions under it. Most of her weight was on her left shoulder, which was resting on the platform while her left hip and legs were on the floor. A male deputy had Hope's left arm twisted behind her back forcing her down on the platform, but she pushed herself up on her right hand and looked to her right, seeing men standing around her, approaching her, she screamed in fear.


The cop on the right appears to be twisting Hope's legs in different directions. At one
point she is straining in such pain the cop on the left holds her left arm behind her back
with both his hands. As the torture continues the cop on the left clears the blue blanket
and gray bed cushions away from the area. In the second and third links the cop on the
right is almost on top of Hope.
The cop on Hope's right appears to turn his back on her and bend over leering at her. He immediately started to paw her grabbing her legs, twisting her body back and fourth, finally twisting Hope onto her stomach. Then the two male deputies moved Hope's body into a specific position so that just her head and a little of her right shoulder were resting on top of the sleeping platform with the rest of her body on the floor.

The cop on the left that held Hope's left arm twisted behind her back sometimes pushed on her right shoulder forcing her upper chest and neck down against the edge of the platform. With her free right hand she desperately tried to push back against of the edge of the platform to stop it from digging into her and bruising her, but the big cop just pushed down on her harder. Her pelvis and stomach were flat on the floor and her head and upper torso were elevated causing her back to arch unnaturally and painfully.


In link one, Hope's body has been moved an inch or two away from the platform and the edge of the platform is
closer to her throat, propping up her head. In the second picture Hope's left arm has been twisted painfully up to the
base of her neck. In the last picture a gloved hand can be seen resting on her buttocks. In the remaining links hope
moves one of her legs while being driven down into the platform and tortured harshly. She clenches her fist in pain.

Hope and her lawyer say Stark County Sheriff's deputies seriously injured her lower back, causing a bulging disc. It could have occurred when deputy Gurlea body slammed her to the road. The spinal injury may have been aggravated further when they knocked her to the concrete floor in the jail, and while they tortured her holding her in a contorted and unnatural position for a prolonged period of time.

Hope endured constant pain in her left arm, neck, upper chest, and lower back, but it was nothing compared to the agony she suffered at the hands of the cop on her right. He knew how to inflict intense pain without leaving any marks and he worked on her endlessly. It looked like he was using wrestling holds, twisting and turning her legs and feet in different directions. Hope screamed and writhed in pain, grinding her neck and upper chest against the edge of the concrete platform.


In the first link the cop is doing something painful to Hope’s feet and legs while he
does other strange things to her. The second photo in link one is chilling. In links two
and three the cop has his back to Hope and may be doing a brutal forced cavity search.
At first it seemed that she was trying to keep her legs together and resist the molestation. At other times she was not resisting as much as she was simply being brutally tortured. A blur spot was always placed over the hands of the cop on the right to prevent us from seeing exactly what he was doing to her legs and body, but we can hear her primal, animalistic screams of pain. While the cop on the right cruelly tortured Hope, the cop on the left never stopped twisting her arm behind her back and pushing her against the edge of the platform. When Hope's body contorted in agony from the things the cop on the right did to her, the cop on the left leaned into her harder pushing her down, making her feel more pain. In some scenes Hope clenches her fists in pain.

There is a short scene with a yellowish hue to it, which seems to take place some time into Hope's ordeal. Her body has been moved an inch or two away from the platform and the edge of the platform is closer to her throat, propping up her head like a rag doll so she looks straight forward. The two cops have both leaned in close to Hope as they torment her and it appears that the edge of the platform may be restricting her ability to breathe.


In these three links the cop seems to be wrestling hope's legs apart and grabbing her
buttocks and doing something in the area of her genitals.
The camera person makes no attempt to do any more than point the camera in the general direction of this scene from hell, and there is always the ever present blur spot, but it's so obvious that this woman was sadistically tortured and it also appears that she may have been subjected to a painful and degrading cavity search.

This video, which has reached the public is only a snippet. Hope Steffey was naked in a jail cell for six hours and its possible that she was molested and tortured for hours. Based on the severity of her treatment in the few seconds that we have been allowed to see we can assume that her entire treatment was extremely brutal from beginning to end, and that there really was nothing that the Stark County sheriffs department could send to Hope's lawyer that wouldn't incriminate them.


In the third link the shapes of the shadows are an ominous indication of something
far more sinister than a simple strip search.
There is one final scene in the short video which takes place at some point in the middle of Hope's mind bending ordeal. It begins with the same two sheriff's deputies and a third man, a voyeur, standing on the left side of the cell. Hope is still laying face down on the edge of the sleeping platform. She is trying to support her self with her right arm but the edge of the platform is cutting across her neck and she turns her head to the side, perhaps in order to breathe. The big cop on the right has his back to Hope and he has her legs locked apart by kneeling on top of her right leg with her left foot wedged painfully under it. He has his left forearm resting on his knee. With his right hand he appears to be reaching down into her genitalia. It is impossible to see any details under the blur spot, but the shapes of the shadows are an ominous indication of something far more sinister than a simple strip search. Hope is still trying to move. The cop on the left twisting her arm behind her back lets her pull her hand down to her lower back, then he presses down on her elbow causing her pain, so she returns her arm to the center of her back. The clip ends when the camera person backs out of the cell, allowing the door to close on this scene of these two men brutally and endlessly torturing this woman, Hope Steffey.

To my knowledge the Steffey's are not claming that there was a cavity search conducted by male sheriff's deputies, which would make this more similar to rape. During a television interview Greg Steffey said that his wife "felt like she had been raped without penetration". The reason why Greg Steffey made that statement could be very complicated. Hope Steffey has been deeply traumatized. It is difficult to tell weather all of the facts concerning exactly what happened to her in the Stark County jail will ever be known by the public.

Here is how Stark County sheriff's deputes could justify doing a "Body cavity search, strip search:" to Hope Steffey under Ohio's twisted laws.

Body cavity search, strip search:

(1) "Body cavity search" means an inspection of the anal or vaginal cavity of a person that is conducted visually, manually, by means of any instrument, apparatus, or object, or in any other manner while the person is detained or arrested for the alleged commission of a misdemeanor or traffic offense.

When asked if she posed a danger to herself, Hope replied, "Now or ever?" In a way it's like a trick question. Anything other than a clear 'No' answer can be interpreted as an admission that one is suicidal, which is considered 'Probable Cause' under Ohio law:

(3) A body cavity search or strip search may be conducted for any legitimate medical or hygienic reason.

The medical reasons are an admittance to prior thoughts of self-injury. According to national jail safety research studies people who are suicidal have a higher incidence of harming themselves while in police custody or incarceration. Hope probably received a cavity search to determine if she had any weapons or sharp objects hidden in her anus or vagina that she could possibly harm herself with. This was their twisted logic and excuse for their actions.

(4) Unless there is a legitimate medical reason or medical emergency justifying a warrantless search, a body cavity search shall be conducted only after a search warrant is issued that authorizes the search.

Here is where sheriff's deputies violated their own regulations on every count, remember the ever present voyeur on the left side of the cell.

(6) A body cavity search or strip search shall be conducted by a person or persons who are of the same sex as the person who is being searched and the search shall be conducted in a manner and in a location that permits only the person or persons who are physically conducting the search and the person who is being searched to observe the search.

Hope Steffey has a legal right to sue the State of Ohio:

(3) If a person is subjected to a body cavity search or strip search in violation of this section, any person may commence a civil action to recover compensatory damages for any injury, death, or loss to person or property or any indignity arising from the violation. In the civil action, the court may award punitive damages to the plaintiffs if they prevail in the action, and it may award reasonable attorney's fees to the parties who prevail in the action. http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/2933.32

After the male deputies tired of torturing Hope, she describes being rolled onto her stomach and handcuffed. One foot was placed on top of the other and her legs were folded back painfully. Hope says she was lifted and carried into another cell by male sheriff's deputies, who tossed her nude body to the concrete floor.

Hope was left alone by her tormentors scratched, covered with bruises and abrasions, injured and naked. She tried to cover her private parts with toilet paper to prevent male sheriff's deputies from seeing her when they peeped in the cell. Eventually, Hope was told by a guard that she was being charged with resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.

During her six hour imprisonment Hope was never given any medical care by the nurse at the jail. She was treated only with deliberate and dehumanizing indifference. Sheriff's deputies may have known that Hope had been seriously injured during the assault by Gurlea, but it didn't matter to them. Hope was never allowed to make a phone call to a lawyer or a family member. To humiliate her, Hope was given only a sleeveless vest to wear when she was taken to booking. She was forced to remain naked from the waste down as she was paraded through a police station full of men.


Sheriff Tim Swanson
Stark County Sheriff Tim Swanson, actually said the reason Hope Steffey´s clothes and panties were taken away and she was left naked without even a blanket to cover herself in a cold jail cell was for her own safety. Sheriff Swanson maintains that his deputies are not guilty of any wrongdoing and that their job is to protect prisoners in their custody. He says that his officers did everything by the book, but according to the Stark County Sheriffs department's own policy on strip searches- "The officers conducting the search must be of the same sex as the prisoner". Greg Steffey agrees saying, "It's common policy everywhere. It's just wrong that they do this to people. She called for help. She Asked them for help not for this."

The reckless actions of Gurlea and the other Stark County sheriff's deputies were intended to cause emotional distress and physical injury to Hope. She sustained a cracked tooth and a very serious bulging disc in her lower back. She has also suffered extreme emotional trauma. Her physical and mental injuries are permanent and she needs costly medical and psychiatric treatment indefinitely. The actions of Gurlea and the other men and women sheriff's deputies constitutes extreme, outrageous and perhaps criminal conduct. The mental damage suffered by Hope has negatively affected her marriage and has certainly impacted all aspects of her life.


Hope Steffey
Hope was a beautiful vibrant strong physically healthy psychologically normal 41 year old woman when she encountered Stark County sheriff's deputies on October 20, 2006. It was a miracle that her ribs weren't broken and she didn't suffer a concussion or coma when she was body slammed to the road. At any time while Hope was being tortured she could have gone in to shock or died from heart failure. Only by the grace of God did she survive her ordeal at the Stark County Jail to tell about it. 460 people are shot, tazered, beaten, and abused to death, die accidentally, or die from unknown causes each year while in police custody in America. Hope could easily have been one of those unfortunate people. http://www.sfltimes.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=633&Itemid=100

Hope's injuries were sustained by her as a direct result of policies, condoned and implemented by Stark County Sheriff Timothy A. Swanson. Swanson was deliberately indifferent and failed to supervise his subordinates. Swanson authorized, and approved of unconstitutional policies and conduct by Gurlea and the other deputies under his supervision. These actions were taken by Swanson and his subordinates under the color of law. These actions and failures to act deprived Hope of her rights secured by the Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

What happened to Hope Steffey has happened to others living in states with strip search, cavity search laws like Ohio's. The use of nudity, humiliation, and torture, by United States law enforcement represents an overall breakdown in American morals, values, freedoms, Constitutional rights, and human rights. These flawed policies- bad laws, will continue to victimize Americans until they start writing to and calling their representatives in Washington and telling them to change these laws or get them off the books altogether.

Reference:

You Tube Video #1 | #2 | #3 | ►#4
• WKYC Videos: Initial story #1 | #2 | #3 | #4
http://pamelahennessy.com/steffey.pdf
• Stark County Sheriff's office home page: http://www.sheriff.co.stark.oh.us/

-###-

© Copyright March 10, 2008 by Schuyler Ebbets. This article is posted on http://www.thepeoplesvoice.org Permission is granted for reprint in print, email, blog, or web media if this credit is attached and the title remains unchanged.

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More Stark County Strip Searches:

Strip search case prompts 5th woman to come forward http://www.wkyc.com/news/news_article.aspx?storyid=88666&provider=gnews | Play Video for Channel 3 News Investigator Tom Meyer's report | Trouble Viewing? Using a Mac? Click here to launch the stand-alone player.

Stark County Strip Search- Four more women come forward with similar stories; Exclusive: http://www.wkyc.com/news/news_article.aspx?storyid=84243&provider=gnews

Stark County Teen girls say they were strip-searched, harassed at juvy detention center- http://www.wickedlocal.com/ghs-newsservice/regional_news/midwest/ohio/news/x1846588869

Crimes by Ohio Police rampant- http://www.badcopnews.com/category/ohio/

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