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S.C. Couple to Receive $150K Settlement In Illegal Cavity Search by Police

Lakeya Hicks (left) and Elijah Pontoon (right) said they were subjected to an invasive cavity search on the side of the road. (Photo by Meg Kinnard/AP).

A federal lawsuit brought by a Black South Carolina couple who accused police of subjecting them to a “humiliating” body search on the side of the road has been dismissed.

Documents filed in federal court Thursday, July 20, show that lawyers for Lakeya Hicks and Elijah Pontoon stipulated to the dismissal of their suit against four white City of Aiken police officers last week after reaching a settlement, the Aiken Standard reported. Courts papers failed to note the settlement amount, but a document obtained by the newspaper showed that city’s insurer will grant the couple $150,000.

“This settlement is in resolution of a doubtful and disputed claim,” the document states. “… This settlement does not represent an admission of liability on the part of the City of Aiken or any of its law enforcement officers.”

Hicks and Pontoon’s lawsuit stemmed from an October 2014 incident where the couple claimed they were pulled over and subjected to an invasive body search on the side of a public road. The pair was reportedly stopped by police because their vehicle had a paper license tag.

In the lawsuit, Hicks said her breasts were exposed as she was handcuffed on the side of the road while a female officer searched her. Meanwhile, Pontoon said police searched his anal cavity and found a mass they believed to be stashed drugs. The South Carolina man explained that it was actually a hemorrhoid.

The Associated Press reported that the searches were not captured on camera but were recorded on audio. At one point, an officer is heard telling Pontoon that a police dog was summoned to search his car because of his “past history.”

“I felt very humiliated,” Hicks told The Associated Press in a 2016 interview. “We don’t want this to happen to anybody else.”

Among those named in the lawsuit were Officers Chris Medlin, Clark Smith, Brian Hall, Penny Schultz and city public safety chief Charles Barranco. Remaining claims against the City of Aiken and the Aiken Department of Public Safety were dropped along with the lawsuit, according to a press release.

“This is the outcome we’ve all hoped for, and we’re very pleased to see our officers and Public Safety itself cleared,” Aiken Mayor Rick Osbon said in a statement. “From the very beginning, we had confidence in the professionalism of our officers, but we took these allegations seriously and took comprehensive steps to further ensure our city is fully respecting the rights of all.”

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