The American Civil Liberties Union of D.C. has filed a lawsuit against a D.C. officer, accusing him of an unconstitutional and invasive search without a warrant, reasonable suspicion or probable cause.
M.B. Cottingham was celebrating his 39th birthday by hanging out with some friends in front of his aunt’s house in D.C. on September 27 last year, when police decided to stop and question them because they had an open alcohol container in his aunt’s yard, reported News 4.
Police asked Cottingham about a bulge in his sock. He pulled out a legal amount of marijuana, and then asked officers if they wanted him to do the hokey pokey, lifting up his shirt and turning around so officers could see he had no weapons in his waistband.
Even though Cottingham had done nothing wrong, officer Sean Lojacono made him turn around and searched him. Lojacono then touched Cottingham’s butt and genitals.
Cellphone video shows the officer inappropriately touching Cottingham:
“You just stuck your finger in my a–,” Cottingham said. “Yeah, don’t do that. He stuck his finger in my crack. Man, don’t do that, man.”
He then cuffed Cottingham behind his back and made him spread his legs further for more anal probing.
Cottingham was disgusted and said, “Stop fingering me, bro.”
“I’m outside your pants, bro,” the officer said. “Relax.”
“Look man, that’s still my a–hole!” Cottingham told him.
Cottingham says the officer was trying to emasculate him and treat him like he’s not a man.
Police then dumped out a bottle of alcohol before they got in their vehicles and drove away.
Cottingham says police made the traumatic incident even worse when they said “How you all doing WorldStar?” 2 times over the loudspeaker when they left. That was a reference to WorldStarHipHop.com, a site that posts videos of police doing inappropriate things.
Cottingham told News 4, “I was sexually assaulted by the officer, in my opinion.”
“I think it’s emblematic of a larger problem with policing culture here in the District where MPD treats members of the community — and particularly African-American members of the community — presumptively as suspects,” said Scott Michelman, the ACLU-DC senior staff attorney representing Cottingham.
At a D.C. Council hearing last week, Police Chief Peter Newsham responded to questions about the incident.
“I have seen the video,” he said. “I haven’t seen that kind of detail that you’re explaining. It looked like it was an inappropriate touching by the officer.”
Newsham said Lojacono has been disciplined for what he did and was removed from that particular unit, but he is still on full duty.
Cottingham believes his abuser is not fit to be an officer.
“I would like to have him fired, to be honest,” he said. “He shouldn’t be an officer on the force if he doesn’t know how to deal with and address the public.”
“It’s humiliating,” Cottingham said. “It’s something that I relive over and over. It happened on my birthday, so it’s a memory that I’ll never forget.”