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Third lawsuit alleges traffic stop strip-searches by ex-deputy

Published June 8, 2012 10:46 am

Courts • A third woman claims Scott Womack strip-searched her during a routine traffic stop.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A third woman has filed a federal complaint against a former Box Elder County sheriff's deputy she claims strip searched her during a routine traffic stop.

In the complaint filed Tuesday, Holly Griffinsaid Deputy Scott Womack pulled her over in Brigham City on Nov. 15, 2010, at about 11:30 p.m.

The deputy told Griffin he had stopped her because a check showed she had no auto insurance — though she did in fact have insurance, according to the lawsuit. Womack took Griffin's driver license and registration back to his patrol vehicle and, after returning to her car, said she had an outstanding speeding ticket in Summit County. Griffin told the deputy that couldn't be true because she had never received a speeding ticket.

Womack told Griffin, then 26, she had two options: Go to jail or allow him to search for tattoos described on the warrant, the lawsuit states. Griffin said she reluctantly chose to let him search for tattoos. He had Griffin pull up her pants to expose her lower legs, then pull down her pants to reveal her upper thighs and lift her shirt to her bra, exposing her stomach.

The deputy told Griffin the warrant was probably a mistake and she was free to go, according to the complaint. She did not report the conduct initially because she lived alone and feared Womack might track her down since he had her address, but said it has caused considerable distress and led her to fear law enforcement officers.

Griffin is one of eight women identified only by initials in a charging document filed in U.S. District Court in April, which lists similar incidents that occurred between July 2010 and November 2010. Womack also faces four criminal misconduct cases in state and city courts.

In her complaint, Griffin also names Box Elder County and Sheriff J. Lynn Yeates as defendants and says they had already learned of Womack's inappropriate behavior from complaints lodged earlier by several other women whom he'd stopped — a point disputed by an attorney representing the county and the sheriff — and failed to properly discipline him.

The Box Elder County Sheriff's Office terminated Womack in July 2011, days after Tamsen Reid filed a complaint with the county alleging the deputy inappropriately searched her for intimate body art during a traffic stop on Nov. 20, 2010.

Reid later also filed a federal lawsuit.

Talia Buck also sued the former deputy in federal court in December 2011. She alleges Womack stopped her on Nov. 26, 2010, and told her there was an arrest warrant for her out of Arizona. He then asked her to expose her lower abdomen so he could check for any tattoos that matched those described in the nonexistent warrant.

Womack, 36, has filed court documents denying the allegations in both lawsuits, which are still pending. In a separate filing, the sheriff and the county denied knowledge of or responsibility for the former deputy's actions.

Attorney Frank Mylar, who is representing the sheriff and the county, said action was taken immediately after the allegations came to light in July 2011.

"The sheriff took swift action and investigated the complaints after they were made," said Mylar. "Prior to the complaints, there was no knowledge of any misconduct alleged against former Deputy Womack."

brooke@sltrib.com