Charges dropped against deputies accused of controversial strip search

Jessica Willey Image
Friday, August 11, 2017

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Charges have been dropped against two deputies accused of going too far in a strip search. It's a case that has crossed two administrations within the Harris County Sheriff's and District Attorney's Offices and had them previously pitted against each other.

A Harris County grand jury cleared William Strong and Ronaldine Pierre of official oppression last week. It was the second time the case against them had been presented. The first time, under the previous DA administration, a grand jury indicted the officers and former Sheriff Ron Hickman was furious.

The accusations stem from a controversial cavity search in a northwest Harris County parking lot in 2015.

Charnesia Corley told Eyewitness News she had her legs up in the air for 10 minutes as deputies searched her for marijuana.

"I felt like they sexually assaulted me. I really do. I felt disgusted, downgraded and humiliated," Corley said.

The deputies were indicted in June 2016.

Last week, the District Attorney's Office took the cases to a second grand jury, who dismissed the charges. Court documents note the reason as "grand jury action."

"They were already indicted and set for trial under the old administration and the new administration no bills them, finds a grand jury that will no bill them and they claim it's based on new evidence," Sam Cammack, Corley's attorney said incredulously.

Cammack has also filed a multi-million dollar civil lawsuit against Harris County claiming his client's civil rights were violated. He questions the state's motives.

"It was the duty of our prosecutors to present important new evidence that was not previously presented to a grand jury that considered the case under the previous administration," said Dane Schiller, a spokesman for the DA's Office in an email. "After being presented all the evidence, a grand jury of citizens representing the community, determined that no crime had been committed."

Cammack disagrees and said he has dashcam video to prove it. The video is 11 minutes long and Cammack vows to release it soon.

"Once the community sees this video, they're going to be outraged, disgusted with what they see and the District Attorney's Office stuck themselves right in the middle of this case," said Cammack.

According to Cammack, the "new evidence" was medical records the state always had. Eyewitness News cannot confirm, because grand jury proceedings are supposed to be secretive.

A spokesman for current Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said the dismissals back up the original Internal Affairs investigation that found the deputies violated no policies. They have been on administrative duty since last year.

The administration will now re-evaluate their assignments.

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