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D.C. Police settle lawsuit over 'invasive,' unconstitutional anal search during stop & frisk

WUSA-TV Washington, D.C. logo WUSA-TV Washington, D.C. 6 days ago Jordan Fischer

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A D.C. man has agreed to settle a lawsuit against a Metropolitan Police Department officer over an unconstitutional and “exceedingly invasive” anal search during a stop-and-frisk incident for an undisclosed amount, according to the American Civil Liberties Union DC.

M.B. Cottingham, 40, and the ACLU filed a civil rights lawsuit against MPD Officer Sean Lojacono in July stemming from the September 2017 incident near the intersection of Atlantic and First streets in Southwest.

According to the lawsuit, Lojacono “jammed his fingers between Mr. (M.B.) Cottingham’s buttocks and grabbed his genitals.” When Cottingham protested, Lojacono allegedly handcuffed him and repeated the search in the same manner, including sticking his thumb in Cottingham’s anus, two more times.

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As WUSA9 previously reported, a video captured the incident, which Cottingham says left him “deeply uncomfortable and humiliated.”

SPECIAL SECTION | WUSA9 Investigates Stop & Frisk in the District

The search turned up no weapons or illegal drugs, and police issued no citations for either Cottingham or friends who were with him.

In October, WUSA9 learned that body-worn camera video from the Cottingham stop and frisk had been erased – despite department policy requiring it to be kept for at least five years.

READ MORE | DC Police: Body cam video of questionable search ‘purged’

On Thursday, the ACLU announced that Cottingham and the District of Columbia had reached a settlement to dismiss the case for an undisclosed amount of money. As a condition of the settlement, the District will admit no wrongdoing.

“Although the District did not admit responsibility, its actions to fire the defendant police officer – an unusual step – and to settle the case for a substantial amount speak louder than words,” said Scott Michelman, Legal Co-Director, ACLU-DC. “The fact that the settlement was reached on the eve of the District’s deadline to disclose information about Officer Lojacono’s extensive disciplinary history suggests MPD officials were worried what the documents would show regarding how long they ignored or tolerated his problematic behavior. We hope police officials learn they need to be proactive in disciplining officers who fail to respect community members’ dignity and constitutional rights.”

According to the ACLU, prior to the settlement agreement the organization was seeking information about more than 20 internal investigations involving Lojacono.

Lojacono was moved to administrative duty in the Second District following the incident. Following the results of an internal investigation, the department announced in September that it intended to fire Lojacono. Lojacono remains employed with the department on non-contact status while he fights his termination.

READ MORE | DC police firing officer for improper body search at center of viral video

“The most important thing to me is that Officer Lojacono can’t do this to anyone else,” Cottingham said in a statement Thursday. “I filed this lawsuit because I want policing in D.C. to change. By firing Officer Lojacono and by settling the case for an amount that shows respect for the humiliation I suffered, MPD has sent an important message to its officers that they must treat everyone with respect. I hope MPD is committed to enforcing that principle.”

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