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City, county settle New Mexico 'anal probe' suit

By: RUSSELL CONTRERAS
January 13, 2014 Updated: January 13, 2014 at 2:19 pm
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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A city and county in southern New Mexico have settled a lawsuit filed by a man taken to two hospitals and subjected to anal probes over suspicion of hiding drugs, the man's lawyer said Monday.

According to attorneys for David Eckert, Hidalgo County and the city of Deming recently settled their portion of a lawsuit for a total of $1.6 million.

The lawsuit, filed against police and sheriff's officials in Deming and Hidalgo County, which borders Mexico, alleges Deming police sought a search warrant for Eckert because they thought he appeared to be clenching his buttocks when he got out of his car in January 2013.

Hidalgo County sheriff's deputies told the Deming police officers Eckert was known in the area for carrying drugs inside his body, the lawsuit said. Police also brought in a drug-sniffing dog, which detected something in the driver's seat.

The lawsuit alleged a host of violations of Eckert's rights, including his being denied the right to make a phone call from the police station, the fact that the search warrant that was filed to search his body was valid only in Luna County but he was taken to a different county after a doctor at the local hospital refused to do the searches, citing ethical violations.

Despite the body searches, no drugs were found.

"It was medically unethical and unconstitutional," Shannon Kennedy, Eckert's attorney, told The Associated Press. "He feels relieved that this part is over and believes this litigation might make sure this doesn't happen to anyone else."

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."

Hidalgo County and Deming officials both declined to comment about the settlement.

A lawsuit against doctors and the hospital in the case is still ongoing.

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Follow Russell Contreras at http://twitter.com/russcontreras.

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