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Woman files suit alleging strip-search

Published Sep. 10, 2005

A woman who claims she was wrongfully strip-searched by Clearwater police just beat a two-year window to file a lawsuit over the incident.

Julia A. Chisley filed the lawsuit Friday in U.S. District Court, exactly two years from the day she says she was humiliated when police strip-searched her in front of the Del Ray Apartments on Sunset Point Road. She could not have waited any longer to sue, given a statute of limitations that required the suit to be filed within two years of the incident.

Police spokesman Wayne Shelor said Monday the department would not comment on a pending lawsuit. A police incident report describes the situation much differently from Chisley's claim.

The report says police removed Chisley's shirt to photograph bruises she claimed she got from an altercation with her live-in boyfriend, Raymond Petrosky. The report doesn't say whether the pictures were taken inside the house or near the street.

Chisley's attorney, Luis Garcia-Rivera, declined to comment in detail on the suit and said the case is new to him. Chisley just contacted him last week, he said.

"She didn't know that this was an illegal thing . . . until she heard about another case like it up in Boston," Garcia-Rivera said.

According to the lawsuit, Chisley called police after a confrontation with Petrosky early on the morning of July 13, 1999. But when Officer John Connor arrived about 4 a.m., Chisley wasn't home.

When Connor returned around 10:30 p.m. July 13, he placed Chisley in handcuffs, the claim says. What happened next, according to Chisley, is what motivated the lawsuit.

She claims Connor called for a female officer, Edna Lee, who took Chisley near a police cruiser parked on the street. Lee stripped her, exposing her breasts to neighbors and motorists, the claim says.

Chisley's suit seeks more than $75,000 in damages.

The police incident report says nothing about a strip-search. A narrative written by Connor says Chisley grew angry after being placed in handcuffs and said Petrosky had hit her. That's when Connor called Lee, who arrived and photographed the bruise on Chisley's left breast.

Petrosky told police Chisley wouldn't let him inside when he arrived home from work around 1 a.m. When she did let him in around 4 a.m., she accused him of being drunk and became agitated, the report says.

Petrosky told police that Chisley beat him with a wrench and flashlight while demanding that he leave. Connor reported seeing numerous cuts and swelling on Petrosky's face and torso, and the injuries were photographed.

When Connor returned that night, Chisley told him she had had an argument with Petrosky but that there wasn't any physical contact between the two. She told Connor that Petrosky had probably gotten beaten up at a bar, the report says.

The state attorney's office opted not to charge Chisley in relation to the incident. She was charged only for violating probation from a previous charge of domestic battery.