Former Utah deputy takes plea in federal strip search case
A former Box Elder County sheriff's deputy has agreed to plead guilty in federal court to two misdemeanor counts of violating civil rights for unlawful strip searches of women during a series of routine traffic stops.
A complaint filed last spring in U.S. District Court alleged Scott Womack, 37, ordered eight women to expose parts of their bodies after pulling them over on false pretexts between July and October of 2010. He faces similar charges in state court for stops made between October 2010 and July 2011. He was fired in July 2011 after one victim filed a lawsuit.
In a plea deal, Womack admitted falsely telling a woman who he stopped in October 2010 that he pulled her over on an insurance violation. After she provided proof of insurance, Womack falsely told the woman there was an outstanding warrant for her arrest. He then told the woman that if she showed him her tattoos, he could verify she was not the wanted person; otherwise, he would arrest her.
The woman undid her pants and partially removed her clothing to expose her lower back and pelvic area. Womack released her without issuing any citation.
He used a similar ruse in July 2010 to get another woman to partially undress. In that case, the woman partially exposed her lower back and stomach but refused to undo her pants or lower her shirt despite being ordered to by Womack. She was released without a citation.
As part of the agreement, prosecutors dropped six other counts filed against Womack. He will be sentenced on June 20, when he faces a possible maximum penalty of up to one year in prison and a fine of $250,000 on each count of deprivation of rights under color of law.
In state court, he pleaded no contest to misdemeanor counts of custodial sexual misconduct and attempted custodial misconduct earlier this month. Nine other charges were dropped in a plea deal that allows him to avoid state prison. Sentencing on the state charges is set for June 12, although state and federal prosecutors are coordinating on what penalty to seek.
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