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Former Marine Accuses LaSalle County Sheriff Of Illegal Strip Search; Incident Caught On Video

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A former Marine has sued the LaSalle County Sheriff's office, saying deputies "humiliated, degraded and dehumanized" her when they dragged her into a cell and forcibly stripped her naked after she was arrested on suspicion of DUI two years ago.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court, Zandrea Askew's attorneys said she was sitting in her parked car when two LaSalle County sheriff's deputies questioned her, and ordered her to undergo field sobriety tests, even though she had not committed any traffic violations, or been involved in an accident.

Askew's lawsuit accuses LaSalle County Sheriff Thomas Templeton and several deputies of false arrest, unlawful detention, excessive force, malicious prosecution, and violation of due process.

The lawsuit claims Askew, 28, passed all of the field sobriety tests, and showed no signs of being drunk, or under the influence of drugs, but was still arrested for DUI.

Deputies reported finding Askew "very disoriented and confused" in her car. However, attorney Terry Ekl said Askew had pulled her car over because she was ill, and was on prescription medications.

According to the lawsuit, after her arrest, three female deputies dragged the former Marine sergeant, and forcibly removed all of her clothing. Askew's attorneys said she cooperated with police the entire time, and was "thoroughly searched" on the side of the road, so there was no legitimate reason to strip her.

"Throughout her detention at the Jail, Plaintiff was not acting aggressively or engaging in any conduct that would cause an officer to be in reasonable apprehension of receiving bodily harm, or that justified the use of force against her," they wrote. "The only objective of the officers was to punish, harass, humiliate, degrade, and inflict physical and psychological pain."

Surveillance video from inside the cell shows deputies wrestling Askew to the ground during the strip search.

Her attorney said video from moments earlier, during her interrogation, shows her calmly answering questions.

Five years ago, LaSalle County paid out $355,000 to settle lawsuits filed by five other women who were strip searched. The department also promised better training.

Ekl said he has asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the sheriff's office regarding strip-searches.

"Why do you need to take someone's clothes off if they're not cooperating with you?" Ekl said. "This was not a strip-search where they were looking for contraband. This was a form of punishment."

Templeton refused to comment Tuesday on the advice of LaSalle County's lawyers.

(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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