Man and city settle suit over police strip-search



The officers involved in the alleged strip-search have not been disciplined.
By PEGGY SINKOVICH
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- A 26-year-old Liberty Township man who says city police violated his constitutional rights when they strip-searched him has settled his federal lawsuit for $75,000.
Dominic Gambone of Gypsy Lane settled his lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Youngstown, officials said.
Both sides had decided not to disclose the settlement until today, the attorneys said. Gambone's attorneys, Alan J. Matavich and Sarah Kovoor, and Greg Hicks, city law director, declined to comment further. The attorneys would also not say if the reason they would not release the settlement agreement had anything to do with Tuesday's special election.
Voters in Warren were asked to renew a 0.5 percent income tax for the safety forces. The renewal passed.
Gambone could not be reached to comment.
City to pay part
According to the city's insurance policy, the city will have to pay $25,000 and the insurer will pay the rest.
The lawsuit named the city and patrol officers Tim Parana and Robert Trimble as defendants. The officers could not be reached to comment.
According to the lawsuit, Gambone was stopped by Parana and Trimble on a charge of driving under suspension and driving slowly. He was handcuffed and placed in the cruiser, the suit states.
Gambone was then taken to the police station, and officers conducted a strip-search and body cavity search, the suit states. Gambone contended the strip-searching and body cavity searching are violations of his constitutional right to be free from unreasonable search and seizures.
In July 2003, The Vindicator reported that Parana admitted routinely conducting body cavity searches and strip-searches on male suspects even in minor crimes, according to an internal police investigation. That investigation was started because of Gambone's complaint, police officials said.
Investigation reopened
After an internal police investigation, Police Chief John Mandopoulos declined to discipline the two officers, but then-Mayor Hank Angelo and then-Safety-Service Director Fred Harris ordered the investigation reopened after The Vindicator published the article on strip-searches. Parana and Trimble have still not been disciplined.
Hicks said investigations of the officers were on hold while the lawsuits were pending. It is not known if the officers will now face disciplinary action since the lawsuit was settled.
Neither Mandopoulos nor Doug Franklin, safety-service director, could be reached.
Trumbull County prosecutors say that strip-searches should be done only in certain cases and that a list of procedures, including, in many cases, getting a search warrant, must be followed.
Courts have determined that conducting an illegal strip-search is a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
After Gambone filed a complaint in March 2003, Mandopoulos implemented a new departmental policy, with strict guidelines on strip-searches. The new guidelines, written by city police and law department officials, require doctors to be present during the most invasive searches.
sinkovich@vindy.com

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