Woman who says Texas cop removed her tampon during public search reaches settlement

Lawyer: If the $205,000 settlement is not approved by city council next week, suit will go to trial

Nancy Dillon
New York Daily News

SAN ANTONIO — A San Antonio woman who says police subjected her to a vaginal search on a public street that included the removal of her tampon has reached a tentative $205,000 settlement with the city.

The proposed deal with plaintiff Natalie Simms is now headed to a City Council vote on Thursday.

Simms’ lawyer Dean Malone confirmed the size of the settlement Wednesday, saying the case was close to trial when a lawyer for the police department suggested mediation.

“I don’t think any amount of money would compensate Natalie for what she has gone through. She feels a piece of her was taken away that can’t be restored,” Malone told the Daily News in a phone interview Wednesday.

“So the dollar amount is not really indicative to her of what she experienced, but she believes the settlement is recognition that what happened to her was wrong,” he said.

An online agenda for Thursday’s city council meeting said staff recommended approval.

“If this settlement is not approved by the city council, this case will proceed to a jury trial. It is in the best interest of the city to settle this matter to avoid the uncertainties and risks associated with litigation in a case of disputed damages,” the agenda said.

Simms filed her lawsuit in federal court in Texas back in March 2018.

According to her complaint, she was sitting on a curb, waiting for her boyfriend on Aug. 8, 2016, when police approached and accused her of possessing illegal drugs.

Knowing she possessed no drugs, Simms consented to a search of her car, and a female officer was called to the scene, the lawsuit states.

Simms made a “respectful complaint” when the female officer focused her attention on Simms’ workout shorts, underwear and genital area, the paperwork says.

The officer was “undeterred” as she “pulled open Natalie’s pants and underwear and used her flashlight to look at the area around and including that covered by pubic hair and a portion of Natalie’s vagina,” the lawsuit alleges.

“Disgustingly, and in clear violation of Natalie’s constitutional rights, Officer (Mara) Wilson chose to reach into Natalie’s pants and pull the string attached to a tampon which was present in Natalie’s vaginal cavity,” the filing states.

“Officer Wilson was not confused at all about what she saw when she chose to shine her flashlight into — and ultimately thrust her hand into — the part of Natalie’s body which was most intimate. Natalie had not consented to such a search,” the paperwork alleges.

The search took place in public with multiple male officers nearby, according to the complaint. No drugs were found on Simms.

“Believe it or not, police have contested that a body cavity search was done. They’ve alleged removal of a tampon is not a body cavity search because there’s no penetration,” Malone said Wednesday.

“I had to fight to get the (police) video,” he said.

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