SANPETE COUNTY, Utah (ABC 4 News) - Several law enforcement agencies in central Utah are facing an 11 million dollar federal lawsuit that accuses them of violating a young man's civil rights.
22-year old Stephan Cook claims police forced a catheter in him after he refused a drug test in 2008 while he was attending Snow College.
As the plaintiff in the case, Cook claims the incident in question started on a quiet sideroad in Ephraim where he was parked smoking cigarettes inside a car with friends. Cook says police officers approached the car, suspecting the young men were smoking marijuana.
"When they approached us, they said it smelled like marijuana, but we said no, we're smoking cigarettes and we just put the cigarettes out like you asked us to," says Cook.
Over the next several minutes, during a search of the friend's car and the police interrogation, cops asked Cook if he would submit to a urine test. Cook says he refused without an attorney and then subsequently refused several more times even when he was booked into jail.
"I said not without an attorney present, because I don't know if what you'r doing is legal. And then he (the cop) said, well we're getting a search warrant and we'll have your bodily fluids by the end of the night."
After police obtatined a search warrant for the bodily fluids, Cook was forced by police to be catheterized at Sanpete County Hospital. "The nurse told him to hold my shoulders and she undoes my pants and wipes me down with iodine, catheterized me and took my urine."
Cook and his mom, a fellow police officer for a different agency believes Cook was a victim of police brutality. "I feel like they had an agenda and they were gona do whatever it takes to have that agenda accomplished," says Cook's mom, Holly Ziegenhorn.
Cook was eventually arrested for marijuana posession and resisting arrest. Attorneys for Cook say the resisting charge was for refusing to give a urine sample, adding that it was a violation of their client's civil rights. "It's kind of a bully tactic. It's the most intrusive search or seizure that can be performed. We're talking about taking off somene's pants and inserting something into their body," says criminal defense attorney Lindsay Jarvis.
Jarvis along with co-counselor Justin Heideman hope to prove that police bungled the case and that there was nothing to even indicate marijuana was ever found either in the car or in Cook's body. "We have requested medical records from Sanpete County hospital, and the hospital doesn't have a record that my client was ever present, so I don't know what they got right here," says Heideman.
Sanpete County along with a list of Ephraim city police officers are named in the lawsuit. Their defense attorney denies the allegations. "My client officers certainly did not do anything wrong. Frankly we were surprised that a lawsuit was filed, given the fact...that the officers were acting pursusant to a lawful court order requiring catheterization of Mr. Cook...the client officers that I represent and Sanpete County will vigorously contest this," says Peter Stirba, defense counsel for Sanpete County.
The case will eventually go before a jury, but attorneys expect it wil take possibly until 2014 to go to trial.