A New Mexico man forced by police to undergo a colonoscopy has quietly settled his legal case against officials from Hidalgo County and Deming, N.M.
KOB-TV reports that David Eckert, 64, will be paid $1.6 million by the local governments – $650,000 from Hidalgo County and $950,000 from the city of Deming – to resolve the case, which was filed in U.S. District Court in November.
Eckert's lawsuit alleged his Fourth Amendment rights were violated after Deming police pulled him over on Jan. 2, 2013, for allegedly rolling through a stop sign. Hidalgo County authorities arrived on the scene and played a role in justifying a lengthy series of medical procedures.
No drugs were found by police in Eckert's vehicle or within his body by doctors at the Gila Regional Medical Center, who administered two digital anal probes and an X-ray scan, then inserted into Eckert's anus three enemas and analyzed the resulting stool samples, then performed another X-ray and – ultimately – conducted a colonoscopy with anesthesia.
A judge granted police a search warrant authorizing a probe "up to and including [Eckert's] anal cavity." The warrant's limits allegedly were exceeded by the colonoscopy and it's unclear why that procedure was necessary after enemas and X-rays did not reveal hidden drugs.
Eckert's lawsuit further alleged the colonoscopy was performed without consent. His attorney, Shannon Kennedy, told U.S. News in November her client was sent a $6,000 bill by the medical center. Eckert refused to pay the bill.
"This is essentially medical anal rape, numerous times over a 12-hour period," Kennedy said. "I can't imagine anything more horrifying than what happened to our client. It's just sadistic."
One possible reason for the fruitless pursuit of drugs is that authorities were using a drug-sniffing dog named Leo whose certification allegedly expired in April 2011. The dog, under the supervision of Hidalgo County Sheriff's Office deputies, signaled Eckert had drugs.
In at least one other case, Leo appears to have incorrectly alerted authorities to drugs, resulting in another innocent driver being brought to the same hospital for probing.
Timothy Young was anally probed at the Gila Regional Medical Center in October 2012 after being pulled over for allegedly failing to use his turn signal. The same law firm is representing Young, but it's unclear what the status of his case is.
KOB-TV reports that the city and county governments quietly settled with Eckert in December. The station learned the settlement amount from a public records request.
Eckert's lawsuit also named two doctors, the medical center and Deputy District Attorney Daniel Dougherty, who helped acquire the search warrant. Those defendants have not settled.
Among the alleged issues in Eckert's case were that the colonoscopy began on the morning of Jan. 3, 2013, hours after the search warrant expired.
It's unclear what Eckert, a scrap metal tradesman, will do with the settlement money or if he will move from the area.
"I feel that I got some justice as I think the settlement shows they were wrong to do what they did to me," he said in a written statement. "I truly hope that no one will be treated like this ever again. I felt very helpless and alone on that night. My family and I hope that people understand that I don't want my face linked with jokes related to anal probing. For this reason, I asked my attorneys to issue this statement in the hopes that the media will respect my privacy."