Former Marine files $1M suit over strip search, calls it 'demeaning,' 'degrading,' violation of her rights

A former Marine Corps sergeant has filed a $1 million federal lawsuit, claiming her civil rights were violated in 2017 when sheriff's deputies from an Illinois county strip-searched her.

An attorney for Zandrea Askew, 28, said Tuesday that three female deputies from LaSalle County stripped his client as she lay face down on the floor of a holding cell screaming loudly, according to reports.

“Why do you need to take someone’s clothes off if they’re not cooperating with you?” attorney Terry Ekl said. “This was not a strip-search where they were looking for contraband. This was a form of punishment.”

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Jailhouse video shows the Jan. 20, 2017, incident, which the lawsuit describes as "demeaning, dehumanizing, undignified ... and degrading," the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times reported. The lawsuit claims that the arrest that led to the search and the search itself were both illegal, the Sun-Times said.

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Askew was arrested after deputies reported finding her “very disoriented and confused” in her car on the side of a road. Court records show misdemeanor DUI and resisting arrest charges were later dropped after it was determined authorities lacked sufficient evidence to make the traffic arrest.

Ekl said Askew pulled her car over because she was ill, adding that his client did not break any traffic laws and cooperated with the deputies’ instructions. Askew also told deputies she had taken prescription medication, according to the arresting deputy’s incident report.

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LaSalle County, the sheriff and seven sheriff’s deputies were named as defendants in the suit, the Sun-Times reported. A representative from the LaSalle County State’s Attorney’s Office, which represents the county in civil litigation, could not be reached for comment Tuesday, the paper said.

In 2015, Askew was honorably discharged from the Marines after about seven years of service, the Tribune reported, citing her military discharge records.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.