Civil suit filed against MPD for illegal cavity searches

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- A federal civil suit has been filed against the City of Milwaukee, the Police Chief, District Five Captain, and eight Milwaukee police officers for performing illegal cavity searches.

The lawsuit doesn't specify a dollar amount but could potentially put the city on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In the lawsuit, two victims describe the day in November 2011 when Milwaukee police officers entered a home without warrant. The suit says officer Michael Vagnini put his bare fingers into the rectal cavities of Jerrold Ezell and Anthony Pettis, one after another, looking for drugs.

No drugs were found.

"It wasn't right. We weren't even doing nothing and we didn't have nothing on us," said Ezell. "Just come into the house and stick his fingers into us and didn't find nothing. It was, like, humiliating."

"I feel humiliated," said Pettis. "It's like I just want this to end. This ain't right."

Pettis said police followed and stopped him as many as 30 times, doing similar illegal searches on the streets.

"Every time they would see me, pull me over, pull my pants down, my boxers -- he would stick two fingers inside me," said Pettis.

Jon Loevy, of Chicago law firm Loevy and Loevy added, "the police have no right to pull over people in the community -- and just because they have suspicion, or just because of the color of their skin, or just because they have any reason to believe they have drugs, they are not allowed to put their hands in peoples' pants."

Lawyers are asking other victims to come forward.

"This is the tip of the iceberg, folks. Since 2009 citizens of Milwaukee every day in district stations and on our streets have been subjected to sexual assault in the name of the war on drugs," said Robin Shellow of The Shellow Group Law Firm.

A spokesman for the Milwaukee Police Department says they haven't seen the law suit as of yet, but the police chief has condemned such behavior by officers in the past.

Officer Vagnini has already been convicted of four felonies and four misdemeanors in this case. He was sentenced to 26 months in prison after a plea bargain.

Charges against three other officers are still pending.