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Grand jury finds no criminal intent in LaSalle County strip search case

MORRIS – A grand jury has found that four LaSalle County sheriff’s deputies had no criminal intent when they strip-searched Coal City resident Dana Holmes and left her naked in a jail cell.

The jury issued a not true bill Tuesday, meaning there will be no further criminal investigation into the May 18, 2013, incident.

“I’m pleased with the review by the grand jury. They obviously agreed with my position,” LaSalle County State’s Attorney Brian Towne said Thursday. “My biggest regret is that these deputies had to live through this for so long.”

Towne was not involved in the investigation because it was ruled he had a conflict of interest, although Towne disagreed there was any conflict.

Grundy County State’s Attorney Jason Helland was named in March the special prosecutor to determine if there was any criminal involvement. He is the attorney who presented the case to the grand jury earlier this week.

Helland declined to comment on the grand jury’s finding. Copies of the most recent court documents were not filed at the LaSalle County Circuit Clerk’s office as of Thursday.

“As far as I understand, the special prosecutor presented a fair case,” Holmes’ attorney Terry Ekl said Thursday. “I’m sure that he did his job appropriately.”

Holmes was arrested about a year ago by Marseilles police for driving under the influence of alcohol and was taken to the LaSalle jail.

After arriving, Holmes was taken to a jail cell, where her clothes were “involuntarily stripped from her body by one female officer, Samantha Kromm, and three male officers, Tyson Szafranki, Terry Puckett and Aaron Hollenbeck.” according to previous reports in the Morris Daily Herald. A sheriff’s incident report said Holmes was uncooperative while being searched.

The incident was recorded by the jail’s surveillance cameras.

Holmes alleged the four deputies did not obtain the proper written permission from a police commander to authorize the strip search, nor did they have reasonable belief that she was concealing a weapon or controlled substance to prompt the search, which is required by state law.

“I continue to maintain that our deputies did the right thing,” Towne said. “When we’re talking about criminal cases, we look at criminal intent and criminal minds. These deputies did not have criminal minds when they were doing their job.”

According to Towne, three of the deputies still work for the sheriff’s office and another recently accepted a position as an Illinois State Police trooper.

“Unfortunately, in the short term, these deputies and their families were put through hell,” Towne said.

In April, LaSalle County settled civil lawsuits in relation to this case and others, agreeing to pay $355,000 in legal fees and settlement costs. Holmes will receive $125,000 and her attorney $100,000 in legal fees.

Ekl has previously said four people, who later joined the case with claims of similar searches, will each receive $30,000 and that a fifth person will receive $10,000.

Also in April, LaSalle County was in the process of implementing new, written policies on strip searches, according to the previous article.

• Morris Daily Herald News Editor Christina Chapman-Van Yperen and MCT News Service contributed to this report.

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