By on February 23, 2014

cmb

New Mexico can be a wonderful place, the kind of place where you can find everything from the “Octopus Car Wash” to your future wife. But for David Eckert, one particular night in New Mexico was a nightmare — one for which the settlement has finally arrived.

The B&B expressed plenty of righteous anger when Mr. Eckert was subjected to repeated invasive medical procedures in what Forbes magazine memorably called a “dog-approved anal assault.” The incident stirred renewed debate about the power that police have to make ordinary citizens completely miserable.

Now, the Associated Press reports that Mr. Eckert has settled his lawsuits against the the city and county in which the attack occurred. The total is reportedly $1.6 million, some major percentage of which will undoubtedly be siphoned off by his attorneys.

Quoth the AP,

In a statement, Eckert said he felt vindicated by the settlement. “I feel that I got some justice as I think the settlement shows they were wrong to do what they did to me,” Eckert said. “I truly hope that no one will be treated like this ever again. I felt very helpless and alone on that night.”

No doubt. This is the kind of thing that simultaneously makes you despair for America (as a police state where the suspicion of drugs is used to sexually assault a man again and again) and cheer for it (as a nation of law where Mr. Eckert wasn’t simply dumped and killed afterwards, and where the responsible individuals are eventually brought to heel). Regardless, a court has recognized that the cops went too far this time.

Lawsuits against the hospital and doctors who did the bidding of the police with no regard for Mr. Eckert’s health, safety, or human rights are still pending. Let’s hope that a clear message is sent to them, as well. To assist tyrants in their depredations of our dignity is scarcely any less despicable than to be the tyrants themselves.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

46 Comments on “What Price Dignity? How’s $1.6 Million Sound?...”


  • avatar
    dartman

    All things considered…not bad. He’s alive and walks away with half-a million or so after contingency, expense, and taxes for his rude treatment. At least the examinations were performed by trained medical personnel rather than the New Mexico State police.

    In many places, especially east of the Mississippi and south of the Mason-Dixon, if he put up too much of a ruckus, he just would have been shot, when no drugs were found, some would have been planted, and perhaps a weapon for good measure. Would have been blip in the next days local news, then forgotten.

    By no means am I condoning this atrocious violation of this man’s rights, but really is it any different from the state of Virginia mandating by law that a woman have a trans-vaginal ultrasound performed before having an abortion?

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      Taxes? There are no taxes on settlements like this as he is just being made whole.

    • 0 avatar
      Skink

      Dartman writes,

      “By no means am I condoning this atrocious violation of this man’s rights, but really is it any different from the state of Virginia mandating by law that a woman have a trans-vaginal ultrasound performed before having an abortion?”

      It’s completely different. No woman is physically forced to get an abortion, or to get a TVU. If a woman refuses, that’s it, game over. It was much different for Mr. Ekert, who was forcibly assaulted. I hope that clears up your confusion.

      • 0 avatar
        dartman

        No confusion here. In my opinion the state either thru the legislature or the judiciary iin both instances overreaches by ordering a gross invasion of privacy without sufficient due process or probable cause. If you choose to get a vasectomy, should the law be able to dictate first you must have a full prostate examination and attend counseling? If anything I can envision a case where such a court ordered “inspection” may be acceptable in a criminal cause…what if there is strong probable cause that an individual has either biological or chemicals inserted in their body to be used as weapon?

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      “In many places, especially east of the Mississippi and south of the Mason-Dixon, if he put up too much of a ruckus, he just would have been shot, when no drugs were found, some would have been planted, and perhaps a weapon for good measure. Would have been blip in the next days local news, then forgotten.”

      Can you provide something more concrete than anecdotal evidence?

      • 0 avatar
        racer-esq.

        Looking at police behavior in cities like NY, Chicago and LA shows the inaccuracy of singling out the south. This is a mix of the drug war and public sector police unions preventing accountability.

        Mark Donahue, Fraternal Order of Police president, supporting a law (fortunately recently overturned by the 7th Circuit) that made it a 15 year felony to record police.

        http://gizmodo.com/5741450/recording-a-police-officer-could-get-you-15-years-in-jail

        In a city where cops like to do things like beat female bartenders, and justice is only possible because they get recorded.

        http://abcnews.go.com/US/chicago-police-found-guilty-covering-bartender-beating/story?id=17716840

        • 0 avatar
          MK

          Absolutely.

          But it makes people of a certain mindset that much more smug to think that this is something that only happens in da rural South by dem white sherrifs and whatnot.

          I’m sure Abner Louima, Michael Mineo, Cassandra Fuerstein and Oscar Grant would be shocked to know that they were in purportedly more enlightened and genteel locales when they were respectively sodomized, sodomized, battered/disfigured and killed.

          If one were inclined to draw conclusions from this sample set, NY rolls with sodomy, Chicago enjoys roughing up women and California just likes to kill folks. (Did I do that correctly?)

          OTOH, if you believe that this kinda shit has anything at all to do with red state vs. blue state or redneck vs. urban then you’re part of the damned problem and not paying attention.

          WE THE PEOPLE are paying for this bullshit TWICE (or more)! Once in the officer’s salaries, again in the settlement, again in the ongoing disintegration of trust between the public and police.

          Not that much different than our public school system and it elicits just about the same level of interest from the public. Oh well, keep on watchin’ Dancing with the Stars, the Super bowl and whatever Miley and Beeber are up to these days.

          Yeah that’s just something that those dumbass rednecks in the rural South are doing, nothing for you to worry about dartman.

    • 0 avatar
      AMC_CJ

      Yes, the south is so evil and backwards, blah blah blah….

      You’re an ignorant bigot, and that’s all I’m going to say on that.

  • avatar
    Synchromesh

    Pretty sure one doesn’t pay taxes off a settlement. It’s not considered income per se by the Feds. But yes, lawyers will certainly get theirs.

    • 0 avatar
      segfault

      My understanding is that if the settlement is for “bodily injury,” it’s not federally taxable. If you collect an award of punitive damages, those are taxable. An out-of-court settlement is generally considered to be for bodily injury only, so no federal income tax.

      • 0 avatar
        dartman

        A good answer from NOLO:

        “The glow of victory may begin to dim after you get your attorney’s bill. As if that disappointment isn’t enough, we have more sobering news — the IRS may try to claim its share of the total. So postpone that trip to Cabo, and read on.
        According to the tax code, the only damages you can enjoy tax-free are those that compensate you for physical injury or physical sickness. (26 U.S.C. § 104(a).) So if this describes your case, you will probably keep the cash safely away from the grip of the IRS.
        There are other reasons for awarding money damages besides compensating you for physical injury or sickness. For instance, let’s say you had filed a discrimination claim against a former employer and won. You receive an award for back pay (the pay you would have received if the bum hadn’t fired you) and for emotional distress arising out of this traumatic experience. Because none of this award relates to physical harm, almost all of it is taxable at ordinary income rates.
        Another type of award is known as “punitive damages,” which are intended to punish the defendant. Even if the underlying case resulted from injury or sickness, these damages are almost always taxable.
        The IRS can rain on your parade in another, unexpected way. If you receive a lump sum payment for money you would have been entitled to if the defendant hadn’t done you wrong, you may suddenly find yourself in a higher tax bracket. You know what that means: higher taxes.”

        Since the procedures were performed at a hospital by I presume, doctors, it is doubtful that any physical harm was done. If there were complications then it would be a different a matter including possible medical malpractice–which he may yet have up his sleeve, now that he’s done with the local governing authorities.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    To walk away with a mil or so after paying the sharks? I need to rub myself in drugs and speed through New Mexico. My luck I would get shot instead of anal-probed though.

    Actually, I really do feel bad that the guy went through this, he should have gotten more money. I have never done any sort of illegal drug in my life, but I have to think that cleaning up the mess that would result from legalization would be better and cheaper than the madness that is the “war on drugs”. If you want to fry your brains, have at it, and I would rather the “tax” go to the state than to criminals selling the stuff. People with a drug problem should be treated, not treated like criminals.

    And no taxes on court judgements, they are not considered income by the Feds. No idea if any states might though.

    • 0 avatar
      segfault

      “Actually, I really do feel bad that the guy went through this, he should have gotten more money.”

      There are still claims pending against the hospital and doctors involved, which are probably worth something. I wonder whether their actions are grounds for discipline by the New Mexico Medical Board?

      • 0 avatar
        KixStart

        I’m not sure we want him to sue the hospital. The cops could have been saying, “Look, you can probe him or we can do it.” I think I’d rather get poked by medical personnel; I don’t want them to get gun-shy.

        • 0 avatar
          VCplayer

          The cops went to a different hospital at first which refused to help them. That probably should have been the hint to the cops that they should back off.

          It’s possible the hospital may have violated its own rules by assisting.

    • 0 avatar
      jim brewer

      speeding doesn’t work in a lawless place like New Mexico. the big-time drug cartels would hire “rabbits” to grossly speed down the interstate late at night so as to draw out the police while the drug laden car follows a few miles behind at the speed limit. After being caught (through wiretaps and so on) the “rabbits” confessed that they would commonly sail down the highway at 100 plus, without a cop in sight.

  • avatar
    dwford

    Where do I sign up?

  • avatar
    rudiger

    It’s worth noting that the only reason for the settlement (which appears was everything Eckert’s lawyers asked for) were the mistakes made, the two biggest being that the dog’s certification had expired and the anal searches were performed outside the scope of the warrant. If not for those two errors, there would have been no settlement and a strong possibility that Eckert would have lost in court.

    Likewise, the city of Deming has issued a statement in which they admit no culpability:

    “The City of Deming regrets the circumstances that led to the indignities suffered by Mr. David Eckert. The City, in collaboration with the New Mexico Municipal League Police Accreditation Team, is reviewing policies, procedures, and protocols for the Police Department’s role in the events that transpired. The City of Deming and our new police chief have implemented new procedures to help eliminate the possibility of something like this ever happening again.

    It was alleged that officers of the Deming Police Department violated Mr. David Eckert’s civil rights regarding circumstances involving a traffic stop and search of Mr. Eckert. In this case a skilled United States Federal Magistrate Judge mediated the case between Mr. Eckert and the City of Deming and the insurance company representing the City reached a settlement. It was the insurance carrier’s prerogative to settle the case.

    In exchange for the monetary settlement, Mr. Eckert agreed that the City of Deming and individual officers named in the suit admitted no civil wrong-doing, including no violations of his civil rights.

    Other defendants remaining in the case have not settled this case and so this matter is on-going without further involvement from the City of Deming or its insurer. This unfortunate incident appears to be a systemic failure and the City of Deming expresses its sincerest of apologies to Mr. Eckert for his suffering.”

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    No comment.

    Don’t forget NM is also a good place for an officer to get caught having sex on the hood of a Honda.

    http://www.policemag.com/channel/patrol/news/2011/09/04/n-m-police-fire-officer-who-had-sex-on-car-hood.aspx

    Shoot at a minivan full of kids…

    http://www.cbsnews.com/news/nm-cop-who-fired-at-minivan-full-of-kids-fired/

    At this rare were coming on Florida for strange crime stories.

    The thing I’m noticing is that the cops who cost Deming 1.6 million do not appear to have been fired. Or did I miss that story?

  • avatar
    Atum

    My main question about society: a post as controversial as that only got 123 comments, yet a post about the UAW gets twice as many comments.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    Eckert’s drug dealers are doing a happy dance.

  • avatar
    tonycd

    An excellent example of why the rich and powerful are so eager to abolish the public’s right to sue — and of why normal people are well advised not to let the rich and powerful demonize ambulance chasers as they chant that “tort reform” is the solution to health care costs and every other problem in America.

    A lot of institutions respond only to the threat of losing money. Take away that threat, and Eckert’s achin’ ass might be yours or mine next.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      Fair point, but the ambulance chaser class brings a lot of it upon themselves by being indiscriminate about whom they sue. OK, “indiscriminate” is the wrong word- they only sue those with deep pockets!

      edit: they only *and always* sue those with deep pockets.

    • 0 avatar
      rudiger

      “A lot of institutions respond only to the threat of losing money. Take away that threat, and Eckert’s achin’ ass might be yours or mine next.”

      The likelihood of it happening to your or my achin’ ass is a lot closer than you might think. Ever since the Supreme Court’s affirmation of Illinois vs. Caballes in 2005, then reaffirmed ‘unanimously’ in Florida vs. Harris last year, a warrantless dog search has been A-Okay as the rationale for a full search warrant (including the anal search).

      Given the ease with which anyone can be stopped for a minor traffic violation, then the ease with which a dog can make an erroneous ‘alert’ (either intentionally or not), well, it goes without saying that the police are going be doing a whole lot more anal cavity searches than in the past with absolutely no repercussions.

      So long as all the stipulations of the warrant are followed, there’s nothing a victim can do about it. Eckert got his settlement only because the Deming PD were grossly inept in using an uncertified dog and going outside the limits of the warrant. And, from the court documents submitted, they were pretty damn cavalier about the whole thing, to boot.

      Imagine how many completely ‘legal’ anal cavity searches have been done and will continue to increase since 2005. I’d sure like to see the statistics on the increase in police K-9 units. My guess would be it’s been rather dramatic.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      There was no justice here. The taxpayers enriched the ambulance chasing leeches because of the actions of unaccountable cops. Send the cops to prison and the liars back to school to learn a productive skill.

    • 0 avatar
      jim brewer

      The federal district court in Phoenix==a city the size of Philadelphia– had exactly one civil jury trial in a year a couple of years ago. I don’t know why they bother with such magnificent buildings. For what they do, a few portable buildings and a barb wire fence are all they need. If you want some quiet time the next time you are downtown, drop by your federal courthouse–its probably empty.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Here is one from the local news (not automotive related, but still represents the heavy hand of the law)

    http://www.seattlepi.com/news/crime/article/Assault-victim-arrested-to-help-prove-case-5260524.php

    So she was kidnapped, tied to a chair, and sexually assaulted.

    Then, in an effort to get her to testify, she was kidnapped, stripped searched, and incarcerated.

    Makes PERFECT sense to me…

  • avatar
    RogerB34

    “…Forbes magazine memorably called a “dog-approved anal assault.”
    The dog liked his anus?
    What is the issue?

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      Here’s an article in Forbes about the case.
      http://www.forbes.com/sites/jacobsullum/2013/11/15/the-war-on-drugs-hits-a-new-low-with-the-police-probe-of-david-eckerts-guts/

      David Eckert was alleged to have failed to come to a complete stop at a stop sign. The officer thought Eckert acted nervous, so the department’s drug sniffing dog was brought in. The police dog alerted to the presence of drugs in the seat of Eckert’s pickup truck, but no drugs were found there. The police somehow got a judge to agree to a search warrant for David Eckert’s anal cavity. Gila Regional Medical Center performed x-rays, rectal digital exams, enemas, and a colonoscopy, but no drugs were found. As a final insult, the hospital sent David Eckert a bill for $6000.

      • 0 avatar
        rudiger

        “As a final insult, the hospital sent David Eckert a bill for $6000.”

        I think this was one of the most critical aspects of Eckert’s lawsuit. A couple of months earlier, the Deming PD had done nearly the exact same thing with another guy named Timothy Young:

        http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2013/11/06/second-anal-probe-lawsuit-filed-against-nm-police

        But in the earlier anal search at Gila Medical Center, no colonoscopy was performed. There is also no mention of billing the victim after the fact.

        One can infer that there were issues in payment for Young’s examination. If it wasn’t Young who paid the medical bill, whomever it was likely weren’t going to pay for it a second time when the po-po went up Eckert’s ass two months later and that’s how Eckert was charged for his own anal rape.

        IMHO, if Eckert hadn’t been billed, then hounded by collections to pay ‘his’ hospital bill, he might not have sought legal counsel, and none of Deming’s butt-happy PD’s questionable actions would have come to light.

  • avatar
    jeffzekas

    Jack- what does this have to do with CARS?

    • 0 avatar
      VCplayer

      It’s a follow up to an earlier story which started with a guy getting pulled over for a traffic violation (the cars part). Motorist’s rights are a frequent topic of conversation here.

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    did anyone lose their jobs or get prosecuted?

    no?

    how about paid administrative leave? that will teach ‘em


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Authors

  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Faisal Ali Khan, India