A Florida sheriff’s department is denying a woman's claim that she was strip-searched in public and had her tampon “forcibly” removed by a female officer during a 2011 traffic stop with her children in the car.
Leila Tarantino filed a lawsuit on Aug. 3 in U.S. District Court in Florida's Ocala County against the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office. She alleges she was not only frisked but that a female officer removed her tampon during a roadside search on July 17.
The lawsuit names Citrus County Sheriff Jeffrey J. Dawsey and six officers, referred to as “John Doe Officers 1-5” and “Jane Doe Officer,” as defendants.
The sheriff's office denied claims.
“The Citrus County Sheriff’s Office wants to go on record as saying the allegations made in this lawsuit are not only ludicrous, but completely untrue,” it said in a statement released to NBC News on Monday. “No strip search was conducted, and the plaintiff’s tampon was never forcibly removed by any deputy.”
Tarantino alleges that she was pulled over by an officer in Beverly Hills, Fla., after she had stopped at a stop sign on South Columbus Street. She said her two children were passengers in the vehicle at the time of the alleged 4 p.m. incident.
She accuses the officer of pulling her over, pointing a gun at her, yanking her out of her vehicle, handcuffing her behind her back, then throwing her in the back of his squad car, according to the lawsuit. Tarantino claims she asked why she had been pulled over and the officer didn’t respond.
She claims she waited in the police cruiser for two hours and when other officers arrived, she was frisked and strip-searched at the side of a busy road, the lawsuit alleges. She said her children had been waiting in the woman's vehicle the entire time. The lawsuit's account:
“During her detention, PLAINTIFF was frisked and strip searched twice at the side of the busy road, in plain view of passers by. During one of the strip searches, PLAINTIFF had a tampon forcibly removed by JANE DOE OFFICER.
"At no point was a drug sniffing dog used to search for contraband,” the lawsuit stated, adding “None of the officers ever found any weapons, drugs, contraband or anything illegal during plaintiff’s detention.”
According to the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office, Tarantino was issued a criminal citation for violation of restrictions on her driver’s license. She also was issued a written warning for rolling through a stop sign.
Tarantino's lawyer, Matthew W. Birk emailed to NBC News the following statement: "This case is currently in litigation and will be tried in a courtroom, not the press. The allegations made by Ms. Tarantino are set forth in the Complaint, which is a public record. Because of the sensitive nature of this matter, Ms. Tarantino will not be available for comment until after her lawsuit concludes.
"This case is currently in litigation and will be tried in a courtroom, not the press. The allegations made by Ms. Tarantino are set forth in the Complaint, which is a public record. Because of the sensitive nature of this matter, Ms. Tarantino will not be available for comment until after her lawsuit concludes."
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