Monday, February 4, 2008

More On The Steffey Case

Couple sues over Stark County incident

By LARRY SHIELDS, Salem News staff writer

SALEM — A Salem couple cited Stark County commissioners, the sheriff, a deputy and 15 unnamed John and Jane Does in a federal lawsuit claiming violations of their rights under the Fourth, Eighth and 14th Amendments to the Constitution.

Hope and Greg Steffey filed the action last October in the United States District Court in Cleveland.

Greg Steffey is the athletic director at Salem High School.

According to court documents, Hope Steffey claims assault, battery, unreasonable seizure and deliberate indifference by failing to provide adequate medical care, while both claim damage from “unreasonable governmental actions by the defendants.”

Named as defendants are Sheriff Timothy A. Swanson, the three commissioners, Deputy Richard T. Gurlea, along with John and Jane Does numbers one through 15.

The Stark County Sheriff reportedly denied the allegations.

The narrative of court documents said that on Oct. 20, 2006 Hope Steffey was allegedly assaulted by another woman on Weimer Dr. S.E. and Gurlea responded, questioned Steffey and asked for identification and she “mistakenly” produced the driver’s license of her dead sister, which she kept as a personal memento.

She immediately recognized her mistake and asked for it back, but Gurlea allegedly refused.

Documents say she “begged” for the return of her license but it wasn’t returned.

The deputy then ran a computer check of the right license and Steffey’s cousin noticed a bald spot on her head from the assault.

The cousin “reminded” the deputy that Steffey was the victim while advising Steffey of the hair loss which made her visibly upset.

The documents alleged Gurlea failed to call for medical assistance despite knowledge Steffey was injured.

Gurlea the, documents allege, warned Steffey to calm down and Steffey replied she was upset and could exercise her freedom of speech and her cousin again attempted to remind the deputy that Steffey was the victim and she had been knocked unconscious by the assailant.

The deputy allegedly refused to acknowledge her injuries.

Court documents said that after searching Steffey’s car, he turned to the two and questioned the cousin when Steffey asked for her sister’s license back.

Gurlea allegedly turned angrily and responded “shut up about your dead sister.”

Steffey pointed her finger at her sister’s license in the deputy’s pocket and said, “she was here, she was someone” and Gurlea allegedly, suddenly exploded into a rage and allegedly slammed her face into his cruiser breaking a tooth, and pinning her against the cruiser, allegedly saying, “are you going to stop?”

The documents allege Gurlea then threw her to the ground causing cuts and bruises and with the weight of his body on her she could not breathe.

Steffey was then handcuffed and told to sit in the cruiser.

At the county jail, court documents allege she was knocked to the ground with male deputies/guard/staff present.

She was questioned and allegedly strip searched without authorization, pursuant to law and policy.

Steffey was allegedly held to the ground and stripped completely naked and left inside the jail cell for six hours without a blanket and “in order to try to keep warm, and regain dignity” she “wrapped herself in toilet paper to prevent the Sheriff’s deputies/guards/staff from seeing her naked.”

The documents allege she was not permitted access to a telephone; was not “booked” for six hours; didn’t receive “reasonable” medical attention for six over hours; repeatedly called for help; went without clothing; spent the entire night in jail naked; and was “eventually” advised by a guard she was charged with resisting and disorderly conduct.

The documents allege she was physically and emotionally brutalized while Gurlea and the John and Jane Does “sought charges against” her to cover up their “unreasonable acts and omissions.”

Greg Steffey claims to have lost the love, society, affection and consortium of his wife as a direct result of the actions and inactions of the defendants in one of the six claims for relief.

The 16-page complaint notes in the fifth claim for relief that the sheriff produced thousands of pages of requested records, but “specifically failed to produce the videotape of the strip search.”

It added, “The available public records indicate the videotape camera that would have captured the incident was functioning.”

Since the October filing, Cleveland television Channel 3 WKYC obtained and posted a video clip of the strip search at:

The Cleveland station featured the incident on its Thursday night news program and also was to air a second part Friday night.

The couple demands a trial by jury with damages for medical care, incurred bills and future expenses, while demanding judgment in an amount in excess of the courts jurisdictional minimum; punitive damages to be determined at trial; equitable relief; attorney’s fees, costs of action and other associate costs; and any and all other relief the court deem equitable, necessary and just.

Larry Shields can be reached at

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