According to the Post-Standard, on Oct. 16, 2017, officers from the Syracuse Police Department Violence Task Force pulled 42-year-old Torrence Jackson over for not signaling for a turn in time. Jackson signaled for the turn, just not in time, according to police. The traffic violation reportedly gave officers the authority to make a “pretext stop,” which is a court-approved way for police to stop someone for a traffic violation but investigate a separate, unrelated crime.
When police searched Jackson, they found that he didn’t have a license and had a small bag of weed in his possession. One of the officers, Anthony Fiorini, also claimed that he witnessed Jackson lift himself so high off of his car seat that he had to stick his head out of the window, which he allege is an indication that someone is hiding something in their rectum. Jackson was arrested.
Once they arrived at the jail police allege that Jackson announced that he had hidden drugs in his rectum. Jackson reportedly denies that allegation.
As they tried to book Jackson, police say he got belligerent, causing them to break his arm. Officers say to control him they pepper-sprayed Jackson and put him in a “spit mask,” making it hard for him to breathe. Then they took him to St. Joseph’s Hospital.
According to the Post-Standard, when Jackson arrived at the hospital, he threatened to kill some of their staff members. They took that as a threat instead blaming it on his frustration with his face was burning from pepper spray, struggling to breathe, and having a broken arm, so they gave him prescription sedatives to calm him down.
Fiorini filled out the paperwork for a warrant, drove it to a judge’s house and had the judge sign it. Then Fiorini came back to the hospital with the warrant and ordered doctors to search Jackson’s rectum.
The doctors refused to do it.
“If y’all can’t take this mask off my face, I don’t consent to y’all working on me,” Jackson said he told the medical staff. “I’m constantly screaming and yelling. I feel like I’m suffocating. I feel like I’m in a bad situation.”
“Police requesting for retrieval of foreign object per rectum, with warrant present. Pt (patient) is refusing all interventions. Given strong pt refusal, no further actions taken,” resident doctor Kavitha Muruganantham wrote in the medical notes, according to the Post-Dispatch. But, the staff did agree to X-ray Jackson.
They found nothing.
But police would not back down. An hour later, another doctor, Kishani Heller wrote that Jackson was still refusing a rectal exam and wouldn’t drink a liquid that would “speed up a bowel movement.”
So the police contacted the hospital’s general counsel and had them review the search warrant.
“Spoke with hospital attorney Mr. Lowell Seifter who has reviewed court order and has spoken with the judge who issued the court order, and states that pt does not have the right to refuse,” Heller reportedly wrote in the hospital records.
So at 11:38 p.m., almost 12 hours after Jackson was stopped for signaling too late, Dr. Hui Hing Tin, surrounded by eight police officers, including Fiorini, inserted a colonoscope into Torrence Jackson, without his consent or knowledge, while he was unconscious.
They found nothing.
The next day, Jackson was released from jail, unaware that he had been probed. He later visited the emergency room at another hospital when he found blood in his underwear. That’s when he found out that he had been violated.
Jackson then received a bill for the medical procedure that he explicitly refused multiple times. The total was $4,595.12.
The hospital reportedly says that the judge’s warrant meant that they had to use “any means” to extract the drugs.
The city says that the procedure was done out of concern for Jackson’s safety.
“Of particular concern was the risk to Mr. Jackson in the event the suspected narcotic’s packaging was ruptured while in his rectum,” wrote Kristen Smith, the city attorney.
But Jackson’s attorney alleges that his client’s civil rights were violated. Doctors say that it is not a physician’s job to act as an investigator, citing the health risks involved.
“The physician’s role is merely to aid the patient,” said Dr. William Paolo, who refused to do the procedure at St. Joseph’s. “If an individual doesn’t have any medical complaint and is purely there for evidentiary collection, and is not an imminent threat to themselves, then the doctor is not there to do anything against the patient’s wishes.”
“I don’t believe anybody should have any procedure that is not deemed necessary,” said Paolo, who is also a professor at Upstate Medical University who covers emergency room ethics in the classroom. “If a particular foreign body is not a threat to the patient, then there’s no medical necessity. Doctors are not an agent of the state and not obligated to become an agent of the state.”
Another doctor who refused that night says the procedure violated the physician’s “first, do no harm” ethics.
The Post-Standard notes that the same incident happened at the same hospital in May 2018, with different results. The doctors chose not to do the procedure.
Jackson’s drug charges were later thrown out and he pleaded guilty to the traffic violation.
He has not paid the hospital bill.