Just when you thought David Eckert's ordeal had to be a one-off incident comes news of (1) a second, similar lawsuit filed against the Hidalgo County Sheriff's Office, and (2) allegations (and an impending lawsuit) from a woman who characterizes as sexual assault the repeated, invasive, ultimately fruitless — and warrantless — search of her person by federal agents from U.S. Customs and Border Protection and doctors at University Medical Center of El Paso, Texas (just across the New Mexico border and not far from Hidalgo County).
Second Lawsuit: Young v. Hidalgo County et al.
The second lawsuit was filed on Friday on behalf of Timothy Young, who, like Eckert, is represented by the Kennedy Law Firm (which says it has been receiving still other calls from individuals with similar stories). Young’s case interacts in interesting ways with Eckert’s. Recall that the first of two traffic stops that Eckert has sued over reportedly took place on September 6, 2012 at around 6:26 pm. Eckert says he was stopped by an officer (Rodriguez) from the Hidalgo County Sherriff’s Office for having a cracked windshield and ordered to exit his vehicle because, the officer said, his hands were shaking. The officer wrote him a warning for the windshield and told Eckert he was free to go but continued to interrogate him about what he had been doing and whether he had illegal drugs in his car. Eckert says that Rodriguez then “seized” the car and called K-9 Officer Green and K-9 Luis “Leo” Duffmar to the scene, where Leo apparently alerted to Eckert’s car. The complaint alleges that a search warrant was obtained for Eckert’s car on September 7, but yielded nothing.
In his complaint, Young alleges as follows: On October 13, 2012, around 9:42 pm, he had just pulled into a gas station and begun pumping gas when Officer Peru, of the Hidalgo County Sherriff’s Office — “with several other police vehicles as back up” — “initiated a pre-textual traffic stop" against Young, “falsely asserting that [Young] failed to use a turn signal.” Peru commented that Young looked nervous and that his hands and legs were shaking. Peru began asking Young about his activities that day and about tires in the bed of his truck before noticing that Young’s passenger had an open container.
Peru asked Young to consent to a search of his vehicle based on the nervousness and open container, and said that if Young didn’t consent, that he would only be detained longer while officers obtained a warrant. Young reluctantly consented. Peru noted in the police report that he suspected that Young was under the influence of narcotics because he looked “jittery,” licked his lips, and took his hat off and put it back on. Peru asked Officer Arredondo to call for a K-9 unit, and Green and Leo responded to the scene around 10:30 pm. Leo allegedly alerted to the center of the driver’s seat, the center console, and the left open door of the vehicle. Officers conducted “several searches” of the vehicle but turned up nothing. Around 11 pm, Young withdrew his consent and asked if he could go. Officers said no and continued to search the vehicle.