The suit alleges that an officer said to Pontoon, “There is something right here between your legs.”
Elijah Pontoon and Lakey Hicks, who have children together, filed the lawsuit last September. It was moved to federal court in November.
According to the lawsuit, Pontoon and Hicks say they were illegally stopped by officers for driving with a paper car tag and searched without consent. In addition to the cavity search, the complaint says, a female officer exposed Hicks’ breasts on the side of the road, with a search performed in the presence of three male officers.
The search was out of range of the dashcam video, which was made public via the Washington Post, along with other videos as part of an investigative report on police abuse in South Carolina.
The city released a statement saying that it denies the allegations.
According to the complaint, on Oct. 2, 2014, Hicks, who was driving, said that the officer who stopped them asked to see a bill of sale for the recently purchased car, then asked Pontoon for identification. When that turned up clean, the two were ordered out of the car and the male passenger was placed in handcuffs.
The suit alleges that the officer said that because of Pontoon’s “past history” of “dope,” he was getting a police dog to check the car. The Post confirms that Pontoon had a record including drug charges prior to 2006.
When Pontoon objected to what he described as harassment, the lawsuit said the officer told him, "You gonna pay for this one, boy."
Hicks was then searched by a female officer, exposing her breasts, according to the lawsuit; the search turned up nothing. The Aiken Standard reports that the search then turned to Pontoon, with a body patdown, followed by a three-minute probe of Pontoon’s rectum, where officers repeatedly hit his hemorrhoids, swearing that it was drugs.
An officer asked another to put “put some gloves on,” and both reportedly began to probe the man’s body cavity and rectum, while Pontoon explained that they were grabbing his hemorrhoids, the suit says.
Further, the complaint states that at no point during the search was Pontoon aware of “any formal medical training of these two Defendants in the field of gastroenterology or proctology so as to be able to form a legitimate opinion as to what would constitute being ‘too hard to be a hemorrhoid.’”
The very next day, Oct. 3, 2014, Hicks and Pontoon went to the Department of Public Safety to file a complaint against Officers Chris Medlin and Clark Smith.
Pontoon and Hicks admitted in the complaint that the officer who stopped them knew Pontoon from a prior driving offense, which is why the car was searched. The suit says at no time did police find any probable cause to warrant a traffic stop; nor did they have a valid search warrant for the search.
Both parties have agreed to a jury trial, but no date has been set.
Hicks and Pontoon are seeking actual, punitive and consequential damages and legal fees.