The jury, in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque, awarded $2,000 in compensatory damages and $3,000 in punitive damages to Jill Dusenberry, one of three plaintiffs in a lawsuit alleging that former state police officer Glenn Slaughter violated her constitutional rights when executing a search warrant at the Phoenix Nightclub in Flora Vista in 2006.
"I am happy the jury came back and found an illegal search on Jill Dusenberry," Attorney Arlon Stoker said. "What they did to her, she didn't deserve."
Exotic dancers from the former Phoenix Nightclub alleged they were forced to stand, kneel or lie down in scant garments while searched by police.
The lawsuit alleged the dancers' Fourth Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures and their Fourteenth Amendment rights to substantive and procedural due process were violated, according to court documents.
The jury found in favor of only one of the three plaintiffs.
On March 2, 2006, Officer Glenn Slaughter executed a search warrant on the Phoenix Nightclub, based upon alleged violations of the New Mexico Liquor Control Act.
Dusenberry claims she was taken to the back room and strip-searched by female San Juan County Sheriff's deputies, who were called in to assist the state police, according to court records.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs argued there was no basis to order a strip search, saying it
"The warrant was to search business records," Defense Attorney Joe Romero said. "The reason they found for Ms. Dusenberry, as I understand it, was their opinion that ordering her to squat and cough crossed the line and made that a viable strip search violation as opposed to ordering the other women to undress from their work clothes into their street clothes," Romero said.
Numerous calls to contact Defense Attorney Luis Robles, who represented Slaughter, for the past week went unreturned.
The original lawsuit included the San Juan County Sheriff's Department, which settled last year for the amount of $10,000, County Attorney Doug Echols previously said.
The county did not admit liability in the settlement, but believed the amount would be substantially less than attorney fees in defending the case, Echols said, estimating it would cost about $100,000.
The chance for a counter suit would not likely recoup the attorney fees, Echols said.
While happy with the judgment, both Romero and Stoker believed all the women's civil rights were violated.
"The bottom line at the end of the day is we are happy, all the clients are happy insofar as the jury spoke and said what Mr. Slaughter did was wrong and violated constitutional rights," Romero said.
Attorneys hope the decision will promote authorities to use better judgment when executing a search warrant.
"If strippers don't have rights, then none of us do," Stoker said.