Ex-B.E. deputy faces lawsuit

Aug 31 2011 - 9:31pm

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(The Associated Press) Tamsen Reid hugs her lawyer, Robert B. Sykes, after a meeting with reporters in Salt Lake City.
(The Associated Press) Tamsen Reid hugs her lawyer, Robert B. Sykes, after a meeting with reporters in Salt Lake City.

SALT LAKE CITY -- An 18-year-old woman has filed a civil lawsuit against former Box Elder County Sheriff's Deputy Scott R. Womack, claiming he forced her to strip, show her breasts and stand in the snow during a traffic stop.

Womack, who was terminated from the sheriff's office March 10, had worked as a deputy since 1997, according to the county personnel office.

Utah Highway Patrol Cpl. Todd Johnson, spokesman for the Utah Department of Public Safety, said officials from Peace Officers Standards and Training are conducting an investigation concerning Womack.

Box Elder County Attorney Stephen Hadfield could not comment on the case, but said it had been referred to the Weber County Sheriff's Office for an investigation for possible criminal charges.

Weber County Sheriff's Lt. Mark Lowther said the sheriff's office is investigating a case against Womack and it is the "same case" that has been filed in federal court. He said he is unaware of any other complaints against Womack.

Tamsen Reid, 18, of Sandy, named Box Elder County Sheriff J. Lynn Yeates and Box Elder County as defendants in the lawsuit. No court date has been set.

Attorney Frank D. Mylar, who represents the county in the federal lawsuit, said, "As soon as a citizen complaint was made (against Womack), Sheriff Yeates took decisive and prompt action," which led to an internal investigation and Womack's termination.

Mylar said he could not disclose why Womack left his job in March, but that a citizen did file a complaint concerning Womack several months ago.

According to court documents, Reid said she filed a personnel complaint with the county in July concerning Womack's conduct in November.

Reid claims in the court documents that at 10 p.m. Nov. 20, when she was 17, Womack pulled over the car that she and four other teens were riding in for a traffic violation.

Womack had the three teenage girls "stand barefoot in the snow roadside and lift up their shirts and pull their bras away from their bodies," according to the court documents.

He then asked all of the passengers for identification, which he took to his patrol car to check for warrants.

When he returned, Womack told Reid she had "a heroin violation in Arizona," which Reid denied, saying she had never been to Arizona and had never used heroin, according to the documents.

Womack then told Reid he could either arrest her and book her in jail, or she could "get in his car and be searched for certain tattoos and piercings," according to the document.

Reid "reluctantly chose" to be searched and went into his car, "where she removed her clothing as Womack told her to do," according to the document.

She refused to follow his commands when Womack said he "needed to check for vaginal piercing," according to the lawsuit.

Womack issued the driver a warning citation, which he never filed with the sheriff's office, according to the documents.

Reid did not tell anyone about the search until after June, when she checked with Sandy police to see if there was an outstanding warrant in Arizona and learned there was none for her or anyone with a similar name.

Reid said she honestly believed at the time that Womack was not doing anything wrong.

"That sounds weird, I know," Reid said. But it was after she went to the Sandy police station to find out about the warrants that she realized it was wrong.

She contacted Box Elder County officials to file a citizen complaint and was told by a victim's advocate, "Don't bother reporting this, because these things happen all the time and nothing ever comes of them," according to the document.

Reid filed a personnel complaint form July 18.

The lawsuit claims Box Elder County officials have received citizen complaints against Womack in the past accusing him "of illegal actions, sexual harassment, and/or other misconduct."

James Peterson, who is with the Robert B. Sykes & Associates law firm representing Reid, said he has "never heard of a case with facts like this," but this is not the first time a police officer has "overstepped the public's trust."

Reid is holding down two jobs and attending college. She is close to earning an associate degree.

She said, "My main intent it not about the money but to make sure it doesn't happen again."

Reid said, in a way, she is glad it happened to her and "not to someone who is emotionally unstable," although she has had nightmares.

She said her parents are "freaked out" about what happened and they, too, "want to make sure it doesn't happen again."

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