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$20,000 Settlement in Montana Jail Strip Search

Eric Lynn agreed to accept a $20,000 out-of-court settlement after complaining that Missoula County policemen violated his civil rights by conducting an improper strip search at the County Detention Center.

Lynn, a University of Montana senior, was among a group that protested an excessive police presence during a July 2000 Hell's Angels' visit to Missoula. After conflicts broke out, Lynn was arrested and taken to the Detention Center. There, Lynn alleged, policemen violated his civil rights by humiliating, intimidating, and degrading him while he was in jail, as well as strip searching him without probable cause.

On April 5, 2001, Lynn filed suit against the Missoula County Sheriff, Undersheriff, nine policemen, and the county itself. On September 21st, the county agreed to settle all claims for $20,000 and further agreed to make changes in their strip-search policy.

Missoula County's previous policy allowed strip searches whenever a prisoner was booked for a stay in jail. The new policy provides that no strip search may be conducted unless there is a "reasonable suspicion of contraband."

Alan Blakley, Lynn's attorney, had initially sought an official apology but dropped that request when the county offered to retrain employees on the new strip-search policy. Lynn said that while the county did not offer an apology, he considers the change in policy and the $20,000 as a positive gesture. He added that he might use the settlement money to pay off his student loans.

Sources: Montana Kaimin, University Wire

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