SANPETE COUNTY, (ABC 4 News) - A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit involving a young man who believes his constitutional rights were violated when police forced a catheter inside him.
Stephan Cook, 22, brought the lawsuit against several law enforcement officers in Sanpete County and Ephraim City, claiming that they performed a forced catheterization on him, after he refused a drug test in 2008 while attending Snow College.
As the plaintiff in the case, Cook claims the incident in question started on a quiet side road 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.
Cook refused to offer a urine sample after the cops demanded it numerous times. He adds that he repeatedly asked for an attorney to be present.
After obtaining what Cook's attorneys call a "botched" search warrant, he was forced by police to be catheterized at Sanpete County Hospital. "The nurse told the officers to hold my shoulders while they cathetered me, and after that they took me straight to jail," said Cook. According to the attorneys, Sanpete County Hospital still has not produced the urine sample as evidence, or even a record of Cook coming to the hospital. They say it further adds to their belief that the law enforcement agencies involved did not follow correct procedure.
Criminal defense attorney Lindsay Jarvis calls the forced catheterization the ultimate violation of her client's civil rights. "I would say anybody who's in that position would feel as though they were sexually assaulted - yes. You've got a female nurse who is unbuttoning his pants while another invidivual holds him down. And then, they stick an object into his private parts."
Prior to filing his civil lawsuit, Cook fought the case in criminal court, where he accepted a plea of abeyance. The agreement allowed him to admit to one count of possession of marijuana and a fine, in exchange for dropping the rest of the charges against him. According to Cook's legal team, the federal judge dismissed his civil lawsuit partially due to the fact that Cook had previously admitted guilt. However, both Cook and his attorneys say the plea of abeyance was made under duress. The attorneys, who plan to appeal, say the ruling to dismiss the case on those grounds is just plain wrong. "Irrespective of whether he committed this crime, that's irrelevant to whether they're entitled to forcibly catheterize him," said attorney Justin Heideman.
Peter Stirba, defense counsel for the Sanpete County officers issued this statement in response to the dismissal of the lawsuit: "The officers' behavior was fully justified and certainly was not violative of any of Mr. Cook's constitutional rights."
Cook's mother who is a fellow police officer for a different city strongly opposes the defense counsel's statement, calling this a matter of police brutality. "This is a story of contemptive cops. He (Stephan) wouldn't voluntarily pee, and they were gonna do whatever it took to get his urine - period," said Stephan Cook's mother Holly Ziegenhorn.
Cook wants to keep fighting and move forward with an appeal. He says he does not want another person to have to go through what he did. "I never wanted this to happen. I'm willing to stand up for everybody else who can't," said Cook.