ADDISON – Two Irving women have filed a lawsuit against the Texas Department of Public Safety, alleging state trooper Kelley Helleson as responsible for a painful and humiliating cavity search during a routine traffic stop in Dallas in July.
Angel and Ashley Dobbs sued Helleson along with fellow trooper David Farrell and Steven McCraw, the director of the Department of Public Safety. They filed the lawsuit on Monday in the federal U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.
Farrell, who pulled the aunt and niece over, says on tape that he saw them throw a cigarette butt out the window while driving northbound on Highway 161 near Belt Line Lane. He said he smelled marijuana in the car and called Helleson to conduct the search. No drugs were found and they were released with a warning.
"I didn't know what I could say or what I could do," Ashley Dobbs, 24, said. "I felt helpless."
DPS spokeswoman Katherine Cesinger said the department would not comment on pending litigation. She did say, however, that the Texas Rangers investigated the stop and forwarded the results to the Dallas County District Attorney's Office.
On Tuesday, the two women joined attorney Scott Palmer at his Addison law firm to address the media. The lawsuit alleges that Helleson used her fingers to search inside each woman's genital areas. The suit also says that the trooper did not change the glove she was wearing and performed the search without consent. Angel Dobbs, who was driving her boyfriend's car at the time, also passed a field sobriety test.
The suit also says Helleson failed to properly explain the extent of the search, telling Angel Dobbs, 38, "not to worry about" why she was putting on blue latex gloves.
"This intrusive cavity search occurred on the side of a public freeway illuminated by lights from the police vehicle in full view of the passing public," the lawsuit reads. "Moreover, this roadside body cavity search was done without her consent."
McCraw is being sued for being aware of a "long standing pattern of police misconduct involving unlawful strip searches, cavity searches and the like, yet failed to take corrective action." It also alleges that his employees were not trained to know that probable cause is required before a cavity search.
DPS has not responded to a request for comment.
"I was molested, I was violated, I was humiliated in front of other traffic," said Angel Dobbs. "I had to watch my niece go through the same thing and I could not protect her at that point."
Both women and their lawyer say the suit is to prevent further incidents like this one.
"In this instance, they have completely failed the citizens of Texas," said Charles Soechting, the second lawyer representing the two women.
Ed. note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly listed Angel and Ashley Dobbs as cousins. Ashley is Angel's niece. The story has been corrected.