Phoenix council OKs $1.6M payment to settle body cavity search claim

Dec 19, 2019, 4:25 AM | Updated: 10:09 am
Erica Reynolds, center, at a press conference in Phoenix on June 24, 2019. (KTAR News Photo/Peter S...
Erica Reynolds, center, at a press conference in Phoenix on June 24, 2019. (KTAR News Photo/Peter Samore)
(KTAR News Photo/Peter Samore)

PHOENIX – The Phoenix City Council on Wednesday approved a payment of up to $1.6 million to settle a woman’s claim that police subjected her to an illegal body cavity search last year and then attempted to cover up the incident.

In June, Erica Reynolds filed a notice of claim, a precursor to a lawsuit, seeking $12.5 million. It accused police of sexual assault and battery, wrongful arrest, false imprisonment, gross negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The City Council approved the settlement by a 7-2 vote, with Sal DiCiccio and Jim Waring dissenting.

According to court documents, police said a long-term investigation had identified Reynolds, 37, as a co-conspirator in a drug trafficking ring.

According to Reynolds’ notice of claim, she was detained Dec. 26, 2018, and taken to a south Phoenix police substation, where she was forced to strip down to her socks and endure a cavity search conducted by a female officer who “inserted multiple unlubricated fingers.”

The claim said Reynolds needed medical attention after the search and was treated at a hospital, where staff documented signs of sexual assault and rectal bleeding.

Police wouldn’t investigate Reynolds’ abuse allegations or authorize the hospital to conduct a rape kit examination, according to the claim.

No illegal contraband was found during the search, according to the claim, and Reynolds wasn’t charged at the time.

Reynolds was later arrested and booked on drug charges Feb. 6. The probable cause statement referred to the Dec. 26 traffic stop but didn’t mention a trip to a substation or a body cavity search.

She was booked on four drug-related counts, but according to a website set up by her legal team with information about the case, prosecutors never pursued criminal charges.

After the notice of claim was filed, Phoenix Police said the officer involved already had been suspended after an internal investigation into the incident, which was completed Feb. 25.

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Phoenix council OKs $1.6M payment to settle body cavity search claim