Woman files lawsuit against El Centro and the county

February 28, 2012|By SILVIO J. PANTA | Staff Writer

A sheriff’s sergeant and Imperial County are named as defendants in a lawsuit filed by the wife of a well-known El Centro bar owner, who claims she was falsely arrested and subjected to an improper strip search.

Plaintiff Ana Hicks also alleges that she was assaulted and battered by the offensive touching that occurred during booking at the Imperial County Jail for a misdemeanor charge of public drunkenness following the stabbing attack of her husband Lance Hicks on Dec. 26, 2010.

Hicks went to aid her injured husband who was stabbed numerous times behind the Hard Luck Tavern on Main Street, according to the lawsuit that was filed in late January. Infliction of emotional distress and sexual battery are also listed among the claims in the suit.

After refusing to be separated from her husband, Hicks was “unlawfully arrested” by an El Centro police officer identified as only J. Tang in the civil complaint. Ana Hicks was arrested on the misdemeanor count even though she never touched a drop of alcohol that night, the complaint read.

The suit alleges Hicks was forcibly stripped of “all of her clothing” at the jail and was subjected to physical touching over her body despite the absence of a reasonable suspicion that Hicks was concealing any weapons or contraband, the complaint read.

The alleged strip search also occurred despite “the absence of written authorization by a supervising officer on duty at the time when the search was conducted,” the suit read.

Tang is also named as a defendant in the suit as well as Imperial County Sheriff’s Sgt. Tony Alvarez.

Solano Beach-based attorney Richard Schneider, who represents the county, did not return calls for comment but a demurrer had been filed, alleging that the plaintiff failed to state the facts sufficiently to constitute a cause of action against Alvarez for gender violence.

Attorney John McCormick, who represents El Centro, said he really couldn’t comment on the case but said Tang did nothing wrong.

“It was an extremely unfortunate and critical situation,” McCormick said. “The officer responded appropriately and beyond that it would be inappropriate to get into the facts of the case, which is in litigation. It’s better not to try it in the newspaper.”

Staff Writer Silvio J. Panta can be reached at 760-3373-442 or at

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