Man alleges public search of very private area

Seeks $2M in damages in civil suit against police

A Baltimore man has filed a $2 million lawsuit against the Baltimore Police Department after officers allegedly performed a cavity search on him in public, in the middle of the day, for no reason.

Jermaine Lyons is seeking compensatory and punitive damages for battery, false arrest, false imprisonment and violations of the Maryland Declaration of Human Rights, according to the lawsuit, filed in Baltimore City Circuit Court.

Lyons alleges he was riding his bike May 3, 2013, on his way to Patterson Park when he stopped at a store in the 200 block of North Highland Avenue. Police officers approached him and asked for identification, which Lyons provided, according to the lawsuit. The officers then asked Lyons if he had any drugs on him, to which he responded he did not, the suit alleges.

Police then proceeded to pull down his pants, then his underwear “down to his knees,” and spread his legs apart, the complaint states.

“The Defendant then proceeded to conduct a cavity search of the Plaintiff in the middle of [the] sidewalk, in full view of passersby,” the complaint states.

Isaac Klein, Lyons’ lawyer, said the officers did not “articulate probable cause” before searching Lyons, who was not charged in connection with the incident.

“It’s as simple and outlandish as it appears,” said Klein, a Baltimore solo practitioner.

Lyons “was embarrassed and outraged,” Klein added.

Klein has filed dozens of cases against police officers for alleged misconduct but said he has never seen an incident like Lyons’.

Det. Ruganzu Howard, a police spokesman, said the department does not comment on pending litigation.

Lyons filed the complaint Friday. The case is Jermaine Lyons v. Officer Demario Harris, et al., 24C14005166.

Lyons was charged with narcotics possession 10 days after the alleged cavity search, according to court records, although Klein said the two events were not related. The charges against Lyons were dropped in August 2013, according to court records.

Klein said police mistakenly arrested and charged Lyons and that he is planning to file another civil suit against police.

High court precedent

Maryland’s highest court held in 2007 that there must be “exigent circumstances” — an emergency — to justify a strip search/visual body cavity search in public.

In that case, John August Paulino v. State, Baltimore County officers acting on a tip apprehended a suspect at an open car wash at night. Police forced him to lie face-down on the ground, then reached into his low-hanging trousers, manipulated his flesh and found a packet of drugs.

The Court of Appeals found the public nature of the search was unreasonable. With three of the seven judges dissenting, the court reversed Paulino’s conviction for possession with intent to distribute.

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