An Indiana woman arrested for a misdemeanor resulted in her being stripped naked, pepper-sprayed and left for hours on the floor of an unsanitary holding cell, according to her attorney.
Attorney Laura Landewich told The Huggington Post “This is not Abu Ghraib, this is someone charged with a misdemeanor crime in Indiana.” Landenwich is representing 31-year-old Tabitha Gentry, a mother of four from New Albany, Indiana. According to Landenwich, the Indiana State Police arrested Gentry on March 30th for disorderly conduct and resisting an officer, following an alleged domestic dispute between Gentry and her estranged husband. Following the arrest, a state trooper transported her to the Floyd County Jail, which is operated by the Floyd County Sheriff’s Department.
The jail’s surveillance video system captured Gentry arrival al the jail entrance, according to her attorney.
“She is hand-cuffed behind her back and as far as the video shows -- it has no audio you can see she is compliant,” Landenwich said “She is walking without assistance and is not making any threatening gestures or anything like that.” During the booking process, the video captures some sort of dispute between Gentry and the jail staff. Landewich described it as a “verbal altercation.”
The sheriff’s department has yet to return multiple calls to comment. According to a written jail report obtained by the Louisville Courtier Journal, jail officials allege that Gentry was drunk and belligerent, and that she kicked and cursed officers as they questioned her. According to the jail report Gentry “was being placed in a smock and the females (officers) were going to remove her clothes.”
However, this was not the case, according to Landenwich, the video surveillance that captured the altercation shows “two male deputies and two female deputies” removing her client’s clothing.
They took off her shoes, her pants, her underwear and then un-cuff her and take off her shirt. Landernwich said the video shows Gentry being placed in a solitary cell, completely naked, without a smooch or any sort of covering. “Before she gets in there, there is video from the cell that shows another inmate in the cell.” Said Landenwich. “He has smock wrapped around himself. You see a deputy go get a jumpsuit, give it to whoever that person is, and he is taken out and my client is taken in.”
Time stamps on the video allegedly show that Gentry was placed in the cell at 4:15 a.m., roughly 8 minutes after her arrival at the jail. A short time later, the video captures Gentry banging on the door. According to her attorney, she was “screaming for her clothes or something to wear.” The commotion allegedly continued at about 5:12 a.m., an officer approached the cell.
“You see the little slot in the door open and a can of pepper spray go into the room and just spray like you would spray an air freshener,” said Landenwich. “You see my client, who is completely naked, back up against the far wall.”
According to The Courier-Journal, the jail report that was obtained contained notes that an officer dispersed pepper spray into Gentry’s cell because she was yelling, pounding on the door and agitating other inmates.
“I made the decision that I had to gain her compliance for the safety of this facility.” Sgt. Ryan Rainey wrote in the report, according to the newspaper. He was reportedly described the amount of pepper spray released as a “short burst.”
Landenwich did not feel this was necessary. “ Standard protocol in every police case I have ever dealt with is that you’re allowed to use the force necessary to maintain an officer’s safety or the safety of other people,” she said. “Well, here we have a woman, who is naked, locked into a cell, who cannot possibly pose a threat to anybody.”
The attorney also claims the surveillance videos show her client was not offered any immediate aid to remove the chemical from her body. “They left her in there with that chemical in the air and on her body for about 40 minutes,” Landenwich said. “As soon as the situation is under control, they’re supposed to provide [inmates] with water. Because she had no clothes on, she also had pepper spray on her genitals. So she was feeling very bad.”
The video shows Gentry sitting, in her cell, naked after having been pepper-sprayed until about 6 a.m., when she is taken out of the cell. They take her to wash her eyes out.” Said Landenwich. “She is given a smock to cover herself, but it doesn’t have any way to hang on the body –it’s like a blanket or towel –so once she gets her hands cuffed behind her back, you see like smock start to- slip off her body.”
When Gentry returns to the cell, escorted by a male officer, the video shows that her breasts and other private areas are exposed” Gentry is placed back in the same holding cell, where her attorney claims she was left from about 6:20 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. when she is finally given a jumpsuit and booked.
Landenwich said she will name the sheriff’s office in a lawsuit she filing against the agency this week. She plans to address not only the alleged treatment of her client, but also the conditions of the cell in which she was temporarily held.
“There’s the sanitary part,” she said. That is the naked holding cell. There is no toilet in there. Inmates have to pee in a floor drain and that is also the floor - they have to sit on. There was a male naked in the cell before my client got in there and no one washed it out, so you can imagine the unsanitary -- the ick factor – of holding multiple naked people who have been charged with a variety of crimes in a cell like that.”
Landenwich claims that there are rules in place that seem to be ignored. “There are lots of rules about how a strips search is conducted, but this was not a strip search,” the attorney said. “They weren’t searching her for anything. This was sexual humiliation.”
Similar allegations were made against the jail in September by a woman named Ashley Storms, who said deputies removed her clothes. The disposition of that case is unclear. According to Ladenwich “Since the story has come out, I have been contacted by several people who have suffered similar and [in] some cases, worse abuse at the hands of this jail,” she said.