Elizabethtown, KY — In the land of the free, taking ten minutes in a store to buy muffins is akin to robbing a bank or selling heroin. At least that’s the way it played out when Holly Curry ran inside the Cobbler’s Cafe to buy her six children some muffins for breakfast and came out ten minutes later to find two cops waiting for her. This visit from police would end with all six of those kids being stripped naked by police and a family’s rights being severely violated. The good news is that in an extremely rare more, the cops who strip-searched children and threatened their mother were just denied qualified immunity.
As Reason Magazine reports this week, Curry sued the cop and the caseworker, insisting that the day she was investigated for child abuse, the two authorities so overstepped their bounds that they should not be afforded qualified immunity. In other words, their behavior was so egregious, they had to take responsibility for it. The judge agreed.
As we reported at the time, it was 67 degrees that day on March 30, 2017, so Curry — who was on her way to bring her 5-year-old to karate practice — thought it would be easier to leave the kids in the car than bring all of them into the Cafe. Statistically speaking, leaving the kids in the car is far safer than herding them through a busy parking lot. However, the police didn’t care about statistics.
When Curry came out, the officers told her she was being detained. Curry began to cry as the cops began questioning her and she asked if she could call her husband, Josiah. However, the officers refused to allow her. Also, the cops couldn’t have cared less about the kids being in the car, as they never mentioned them, and the kids stayed in the car the entire time.
The officer informed Curry that they were not charging her with a crime, but noted that they were going to file a “JC3 form” which is a hotline-type alert to the Kentucky child protection system.
The very next day, a CPS agent showed up at the Currys home. But Curry stood her ground and asked if the agent had a warrant. CPS did not have a warrant and the agent left. However, Curry’s brief rights-flexing victory lasted only about an hour.
Shortly after the original visit, child protective services showed up at the Curry’s home again, this time with a cop by her side, and demanded to be let in—despite still not having a warrant. Again, Curry asked for a warrant. That’s when the threats came out. According to the lawsuit filed by the Currys, the CPS agent and the cop threatened the family with taking all their kids if they did not let them in. Not wanting to have her children kidnapped, Curry let them in.
According to a report from Reason magazine, once inside, the woman from CPS:
…questioned Curry about her home life. Curry answered fully, the lawsuit said, worried that any refusal would add to her peril. The investigator insisted on taking the youngest child from Curry’s lap and, without permission, began to undress her. In the presence of the male deputy, the investigator proceeded to undress each child, male and female, down to the genitals (removing the diapers of the two youngest). Curry tried to object, but she knew she was powerless to stop the investigator from doing full-body inspections.
The last to be undressed was her 4-year-old son, taught by his pediatrician that he should never let a stranger take his clothes off without his mom’s okay. But when the boy tried to make eye contact with Curry, the investigator stood directly in his line of sight, leaving him helpless. Then the investigator pointed to the deputy and said, “Show that cop your muscles!” The little boy removed his shirt and flexed his biceps as ordered. The investigator and deputy began laughing while the investigator started to pull down his pants. When the little boy finally was able to look back at his mother, she was holding back tears. The little boy’s face registered shame and fear.
After humiliating the family and severely tormenting the children with a police officer assisted strip search, the cop and the CPS agent left. Two weeks later, Curry would be found not guilty of child neglect.
The Currys then used the lawsuit to expose the system for coercion and threats they used to “investigate” an innocent mother and her six children.
Curry said, “the experience left an indelible mark on our whole family. We all felt violated.”
After the incident and subsequent lawsuit, the officers involved did what cops do, they sought to use the doctrine of Qualified Immunity, however, according to Reason, on August 19 in Curry v. Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Human Services, Judge Justin Walker said that it was clear the government used an improper threat to enter the home, lacked any evidence that might have justified a strip search, and violated the children’s rights to bodily integrity. The judge issued a powerful ruling, stated as follows:
Act One: An “attentive and loving” mother gets muffins for her children. Act Two: There’s a knock on her door and a threat by the government to take away her children. Act Three: Her children are strip searched without cause. America’s founding generation may never have imagined a Cabinet for Health and Family Services. But they knew their fair share of unwelcome constables. And they added a Fourth Amendment to our Constitution to protect against this three-act tragedy.
Curry had every right to be worried about the state taking her children as Kentucky CPS have been exposed in recent years for illegally stealing children from homes as well as circumventing constitutional rights by threatening to steal children.