A jury in federal court late today awarded Leo Hardy, 40, just over half a million dollars today for a wrongful “stop and frisk” and false arrest by Milwaukee police stemming from a March 2012 traffic stop.
The case is the first of several federal suits to reach a jury in cases involving alleged improper strip searches by the Milwaukee Police Department. Mr. Hardy was represented by Robin Shellow of Milwaukee’s The Shellow Group, and Russell Ainsworth, Heather Lewis Donnell and Theresa Kleinhaus of the Chicago-based firm Loevy & Loevy Attorneys at Law. The Shellow Group and Loevy & Loevy represent over a dozen other citizens who have filed similar lawsuits against the Milwaukee PD.
According to his suit, “Mr. Hardy had not committed any traffic violation. Rather, Officers [Michael] Gasser and [Keith] Garland used an alleged traffic stop as a false pretense to search Mr. Hardy without probable cause.… Officer Gasser then searched Mr. Hardy by reaching his hands into Mr. Hardy’s pants and inappropriately touched Plaintiff’s genitalia.”
Fearing for his safety, Mr. Hardy ran, but was quickly caught by the defendant officers who, in turn, allegedly conducted a much more public strip search, removing Mr. Hardy’s pants and underwear in front of several neighbors and other witnesses near his home.
“While awaiting transport, Defendant Officers searched Mr. Hardy a third time by reaching inside his pants an touching his genitalia again,” said the suit.
No contraband was found during any of the searches, and when Mr. Hardy complained of the incident to officers with Internal Affairs, they allegedly threatened him with charges of obstructing justice if his statements were untrue.
Copies of Mr. Hardy’s lawsuit are available by emailing [email protected]