UPDATED: Saturday, February 02, 2008 7:53:33 AM
CANTON -- Hope Steffey says she was knocked down and slammed face first into a jail cell floor by Stark County sheriff’s deputies. Sheriff Timothy Swanson denies that.
Video could reveal what happened.
But her lawyer says he never received it from the sheriff, even though there’s surveillance tape that shows a deputy videotaping Steffey as she’s escorted to a jail cell.
“We believe there’s still videotape out there,’’ Steffey’s attorney, David Malik, said.
Steffey, 41, says Stark County sheriff’s deputies and jail workers used excessive force and assaulted her 15 months ago, according to a federal lawsuit.
Videotape aired in Part 1 of Tom Meyer’s exclusive investigation Thursday night, shows Steffey was stripped naked inside a jail cell by at least seven sheriff’s deputies and jail workers. At least two of them were men.
Steffey was face down and handcuffed at the time.
“Hope begged and pleaded with her … assailants to stop,’’ the lawsuit says. “There was no forcible penetration but Hope felt as if she was being raped.”
The sheriff said in an e-mail to Channel 3 News that Steffey’s clothes needed to be removed for her own safety. He said she refused to do it herself, so deputies removed them for her.
Steffey’s husband, Greg, and her attorney deny that.
“She was never asked once to take off any of her clothes,’’ Greg Steffey said. “(They) never stated a reason why. It was for total humiliation.”
Steffey declined to be interviewed for this story. Her husband said she’s still too traumatized.
But he said the couple wanted her story told.
“I don’t want this to happen to anyone else,’’ Greg Steffey said. “This has not only changed my wife’s life, it has changed my family’s life.”
Steffey’s ordeal began when a cousin called 9-1-1 for help. He said Steffey had been assaulted by another cousin.
When a Stark County Sheriff’s deputy arrived, he treated Steffey as the problem, not the victim.
“He proceeded to pick her up off the ground and slam her onto the ground,” Greg Steffey said.
Again, videotape could tell the story. But the sheriff deputy’s dashcam video shows only portions of what happened.
“Why doesn't the camera start in the beginning? Why does it start halfway through?” Dennis Niermann, another attorney for Steffey said.
Steffey was charged with resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. She was later convicted on both counts. But most of the video seen in our two reports was never shown at trial.
But Steffey’s husband said he doesn’t understand how a call for help ended up with what he calls an outrageous strip search.
“She asked for help, not for this,’’ Greg Steffey said.
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