New Mexico police anal probe victim wins settlement

Back in November, John ran a series of stories — shocking accounts really — about out of control law enforcement officers in southern New Mexico with a proclivity for conducting anal exams and enemas on people for minor traffic infractions.

Specifically, on 2 January 2013, a man named David Eckert apparently rolled through a stop sign out of a Walmart parking lot. Upon stopping him, police later claimed Eckert appeared to be “clenching his buttocks.” And as a consequence they concluded he must have drugs up his anus. The cops found a cooperative deputy DA who obtained a search warrant.

Actual court documents in the "clenched buttocks" lawsuit, courtesy of KOB4.

Actual court documents in the “clenched buttocks” lawsuit, courtesy of KOB4.

Eckert’s horror unrolled like… well, a horror movie. Or perhaps the law enforcement “live action role play” (LARP) version of “Deliverance.”

As John recounted, the following was inflicted upon Mr. Eckert:

  1. They x-ray his abdomen, find nothing.
  2. They examine his anus digitally, find nothing.
  3. They examine his anus again digitally, find nothing.
  4. They give him an enema, make him defecate in front of the doctors and cops, examine his stool, and find nothing.
  5. They give him a second enema, find nothing.
  6. They give him a third enema, find nothing.
  7. They x-ray him again, find nothing.
  8. So what do they do next? Prepare him for surgery and give him a forced colonoscopy.  And find nothing.

Not surprisingly, the man is now suing the cops and the hospital.

In addition to the humiliating treatment inflicted on this man, the officers didn’t even obey the appallingly broad terms of the probable cause-absent search warrant. The warrant was valid only in Luna County (where Deming NM is located, and Gila Medical Center is in Grant County), and it expired at 10pm, whereas Mr. Eckert was being prepped for his unnecessary and forced colonoscopy surgery at 1am the following morning. (Hidalgo county’s involvement was related to Sheriff officers who jumped in on the sadism under-color-of-law action.)

This was also the case, by the way, where the cops used an un-certified canine to claim that the dog had detected drugs in Mr. Eckert’s car — and of course, after the search, none were found. The cops seized Eckert’s car and arrested him anyway.

To add insult to injury, Gila Medical Center attempted repeatedly to bill Mr. Eckert for the sadistic and medical malpractice inflicted upon him against his will.

Thus, also not surprisingly, Mr. Eckert just settled part of his case for a rather substantial settlement.

The same local TV station which broke the story back in November, KOB4 Albuquerque, posted a followup story.

Originally, Eckert had sued the City of Deming NM and Hidalgo County (both of whom had officers on the scene during Mr. Eckert’s repeated violating searches), as well as Gila Regional Medical center and its doctors, and the deputy district attorney who signed off on the warrants.

KOB’s “4 On Your Side” just learned that in December that Deming and Hidalgo settled for $650k and $950k respectively, for a total of $1.6 million.

Mr. Eckert’s lawsuit is still pending against the medical center, the doctors, and the deputy DA. It is thought this case might have to go to a jury court, particularly against the Gila Medical Center in Silver City and the doctors, because they don’t want to admit wrongdoing. This, despite the fact Gila was in fact the cops’ second choice; they tried to have it done at a Deming area hospital’s emergency room.

The lawsuit claims that Deming Police tried taking Eckert to an emergency room in Deming, but a doctor there refused to perform the anal cavity search citing it was “unethical.”

But physicians at the Gila Regional Medical Center in Silver City agreed to perform the procedure and a few hours later, Eckert was admitted.

KOB4 also reported:

For the first time, Eckert is speaking out about the case through a written statement:

“I feel that I got some justice as I think the settlement shows they were wrong to do what they did to me. I truly hope that no one will be treated like this ever again. I felt very helpless and alone on that night. My family and I hope that people understand that I don’t want my face linked with jokes related to anal probing. For this reason, I asked my attorneys to issue this statement in the hopes that the media will respect my privacy.”

Attorneys for Hidalgo County have racked up nearly $55,000 in legal fees.

Sometimes there is still justice to be had. I for one am glad to have seen such a blatantly illegal sado-sexual assault to have been punished. Of course, the sad downside is it’s not those vile cops or their legal system enablers who will suffer the longer term consequences, but the taxpayers of Hidalgo County and Deming.

One thing remains certain: There are some vile, sadistic men out there yet who represent the absolute worst in law enforcement, and they give all the good cops a bad name.


Published professional writer and poet, Becca had a three decade career in technical writing and consulting before selling off most of her possessions in 2006 to go live at an ashram in India for 3 years. She loves literature (especially science fiction), technology and science, progressive politics, cool electronic gadgets, and perfecting Hatch green chile recipes. Fortunately for this last, Becca and her wife currently live in New Mexico. @BeccaMorn

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