Illegal Kane County strip search brings call for special prosecutor
A Minnesota man wants a special prosecutor to investigate Kane County sheriff's deputies after a judge ruled that deputies conducted an illegal strip search of the man after an April arrest on Interstate 90 near Elgin.
Ismael Jaimes-Meza, 23, of St. Paul has been released from jail while prosecutors appeal the ruling, which makes his statements and methamphetamine found on him inadmissible in court.
Kane County Judge John Barsanti ruled July 22 the strip search conducted by deputies was illegal and didn't follow state law.
Barsanti on Thursday denied a motion by Kane County prosecutors to reconsider his decision and prosecutors plan to appeal.
Kathleen Colton, the attorney representing Meza, argued the strip search was illegal because Meza was not under arrest, and deputies failed to get written permission from a commander as well as prepare a special report on the search, which were two requirements under state law.
Colton said Meza's girlfriend and the driver of the sport utility vehicle Meza was riding in also were strip-searched -- but not charged.
Colton said she believes illegal strip searches in Kane County are widespread and go beyond just her client.
"I think this is the tip of the iceberg. It's not right to strip-search people illegally. It's not right from a legal standpoint and it's not right from a moral standpoint," Colton said. "It violates the Fourth Amendment and our criminal code. This statute has been on the books for a while. It's nothing new."
Barsanti is scheduled Oct. 21 to hear arguments for and against a special prosecutor to investigate sheriff's deputies involved in Meza's strip search.
Sheriff Don Kramer said he could not comment on the specifics of Meza's case, but he said, "We have the most up-to-date policy and procedures for strip searches in the jail and we follow those procedures."
If a special prosecutor is eventually appointed and determines the deputies intentionally failed to follow the strip search statute, actions taken against the deputies can range from internal discipline to criminal charges of official misconduct, a felony that carries a maximum five-year prison term.
Colton argues a special prosecutor is warranted because the Kane County state's attorney's office represents the Kane County sheriff's office in lawsuits.
Meza has been ordered released from the Kane County jail, where he had been held on $350,000 bail since his April 15 arrest.
The charges of possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver, a felony that carries a six- to 30-year prison term, remain while the Barsanti's ruling is being appealed by prosecutors.
At the time of the arrest, the sheriff's office said Meza was caught with 89 grams of methamphetamine worth an estimated $8,900.