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Women say ex-Merryville chief did 'unjustified' strip search

Last Modified: Thursday, July 04, 2013 1:29 PM

Johnathan Manning // American Press jmanning@americanpress.com

Two women have filed a lawsuit in Beauregard’s 36th Judicial District Court alleging that former Merryville Police Chief James Fowler forced them into an “unjustified” strip search after a traffic stop.

The town of Merryville and its police department are listed as co-defendants in the suit, which was filed in March.

The women claim that in March 2012, a Merryville Police Department employee stopped

the women’s vehicle “without justification and/or probable cause.”

The vehicle was searched with a dog that “upon information and belief, did not alert, was enticed into falsely alerting and/or falsely alerted on the vehicles,” the suit reads.

The women were subjected to a strip search at the scene and made to squat while naked, the suit alleges.

One of the women was arrested and served five days in the parish jail, according to the suit. The suit also claims that Fowler intentionally put off submitting a report to delay the setting of the bond, which was set at $500.

Fowler attempted to have someone else plant drugs in the other woman’s car to dissuade the women from pursuing the lawsuit, the suit says.

The suit claims Fowler had a history “of making vehicle stops without probable cause and attempting to romantically engage young women.”

Merryville and its police department filed a motion in April requesting that the suit be moved from district court to federal court.

In April, Fowler pleaded guilty to one count of abuse of office and was sentenced to 60 days in the Beauregard Parish Jail, according to court documents. Fowler was also sentenced to a suspended three-year prison term.

Originally, Fowler was also charged with filing false public records and malfeasance in office. The charges stemmed from an incident in April 2012 in which a search by Fowler during a traffic stop failed to produce any drugs.

State police said that after letting the vehicle go, Fowler learned that a passenger might be carrying drugs in her purse.

He crossed the state line to Bon Weir, Texas, where he found the car and drugs in the woman’s pocketbook. He took her back to Beauregard Parish.

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