CANTON — Hope Steffey’s night began with a call to police for help. It ended with her face down, completely naked and sobbing on a jail cell floor.
Steffey says Stark County sheriff’s deputies used excessive force and assaulted her during a strip search 15 months ago, according to a federal lawsuit.
Stark County Sheriff Timothy Swanson denies the allegation.
Steffey’s attorney says her clothes, including her underwear and bra, were stripped from her body by at least seven male and female sheriff’s deputies and jail workers. She lay face down in handcuffs at the time.
“Hope begged and pleaded with her … assailants to stop,” the lawsuit says. “There was no forcible penetration but Hope felt as if she was being raped.”
The sheriff denies this was a strip search.
The sheriff’s policy requires officers conducting any strip search to be of the same sex.
Her attorney, David Malik, said Steffey, 41, was never asked to voluntarily remove her clothes.
In an e-mail, Swanson said Steffey was asked to remove her clothes but refused. He said deputies took them off for her own safety.