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Judge seeks to wind up Nassau strip search case

A federal judge has asked attorneys to submit their final arguments in writing in the case of 17,700 people who were arrested on charges of misdemeanors and other minor crimes and illegally strip searched at the Nassau County jail from 1996 to 1999.

U.S. District Judge Denis Hurley said late Wednesday that he did not believe he had to hear attorneys for the county and for the plaintiffs voice their closing arguments in court, after both sides rested their cases in U.S. District Court in Central Islip. There is no jury in the case.

Hurley, who is to determine damages in the case, said both sides could submit their closing statements, if they wished, and should submit final legal arguments and motions by Jan. 29.

The judge, who has been hearing the case for two weeks, heard testimony from 11 witnesses for the county and 13 for the plaintiffs.

The county witnesses were mainly correction officers at the jail, who testified that they did not touch detainees who stood naked before them in stalls.

Since a federal appeals court already has ruled that the detainees are entitled to damages, the county has been trying to minimize the effects the strip searches had on individuals.

The witnesses for the plaintiffs were mainly detainees who testified that at times there were others present when they were naked and the searches sometimes occurred outside the stalls in a more open area.

Some witnesses also said different officers used different techniques in conducting the searches. The plaintiffs have argued that the correction officers received no formal training in how to conduct strip searches.

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