Orcas woman claims deputy inappropriately searched her

An Orcas woman convicted of felony burglary and misdemeanor theft has filed a Civil Rights Complaint against San Juan County for an alleged assault by a deputy.

“It’s frivolous and ridiculous. She has claims against the department of corrections and another county as well,” said San Juan County Sheriff Ron Krebs. “People sit in jail and have nothing better to do.”

In the March 2013, Meloni Terry, 54, was convicted by a jury of second-degree burglary and third-degree possession of stolen property and was ordered to serve 60 months in prison and to pay $1,347 in fines in a sentence handed down by San Juan County Superior Judge Don Eaton.

During her arrest in October 2012 for the break-in at an Orcas home, Terry says she was patted down by officers Jack Wilsey and Bruce Distler, and then searched a second time at the Orcas substation. She was then transported to the Orcas dock where she was taken via sheriff’s boat to the Friday Harbor jail. After disembarking, Terry says an officer met her at the dock and made a pat search that was “aggressive, unreasonable and violating,” according to court documents. It was dark and Terry says she cannot identify the deputy. She wrote in her statement, “C.O. John Doe fondled my breasts and roughly squeezed my buttocks. This occurred as officer Jack Wilsey stood and watched. When C.O. John Doe began his unreasonable search, I objected, but was told not to resist. I began to cry and asked witness Jack Wilsey to help. Officer Jack Wilsey shrugged his shoulders and left me in the custody of C.O. John Doe.”

Although Terry was unable to recall what the deputy looked like, the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office looked up her records and saw Sheriff Krebs, then a deputy, had handled the booking.

“It is so egregious. She says she can’t remember my face, but I drove her up to the jail and booked her,” said Krebs. “I search everyone before they get in my patrol car, no matter how many times they have been searched before.”

Krebs is identified as John Doe in Terry’s complaint because she didn’t know it was him at the time she filed it. Terry says she tried to report the alleged incident to Compass Mental Health and her public defender but both were unable to help. She is currently serving out her sentence at the Washington Corrections Center for Women in Gig Harbor. The incident of the alleged assault in San Juan County came to light in March 2015 when she told an officer in Skagit County. According to court documents, he told her she could report it and she stated “they are the police.” The officer told her “that did not mean people in our profession couldn’t get in trouble for such things.” He alerted his police chief, and wrote a report about the conversation with Terry.

On April 1, 2015, Undersheriff Brent Johnson wrote Terry a memo regarding her allegations: “I understand your complaint is an emotional one that has caused you pain; I’m sorry that has happened. I know this alleged incident occurred a little over two years ago, and you cannot identify the person you feel has caused you harm. I showed you some photos of the deputies that had been working on San Juan Island and you couldn’t identify him. You pointed to one deputy and said, ‘This could be him…I’m not sure.’ The deputy you pointed to was not on the call. I want you to know that your complaint has been heard, and I will review search techniques with our deputies. I want to thank you for helping us by bringing this complaint to my/our attention.”

Terry is asking for $5 million for “pain, suffering and medical bills tied to future counseling for the sexual assault.” The complaint is against Wilsey, C.O. John Doe, former sheriff Rob Nou and Compass Mental Health.

According to court documents, Meloni has been convicted of more than two dozen criminal offenses in the last 20 years, including 10 separate felony drug or property crimes since 1999. She appealed her 2013 San Juan County conviction but lost.