Tony Reed
Del Norte Triplicate

A $500,000 claim has been filed against Del Norte County alleging a sheriff’s deputy touched a female subject inappropriately during a search made without a warrant.

Victoria Baldwin, 48, of Crescent City, has filed a claim that on Nov. 2, a deputy “intentionally or negligently caused me severe emotional distress in addition to the severe distress of being falsely arrested.” The deputy’s name was not disclosed in the claim nor by county officials.

Crescent City attorney Jim Fallman said deputies were searching the wrong house for another subject without a warrant when they came upon items related to Baldwin’s son’s legal medicinal marijuana, which he uses to treat shoulder surgery pain. Baldwin’s claim states an unknown male deputy, unsupervised by another officer, touched her vaginal area while searching her outside her home that night. The claim said she was later searched again at the county jail by another officer who did not touch her improperly.

Assistant County Administrative Officer Neal Lopez said Tuesday he had just read the filed complaint. He said copies of the complaint will be sent to risk management, county counsel and the county’s insurance carrier to investigate if the county is liable. He said it’s typical that government agencies carry insurance, as they need to be when it comes to liability issues.

As for how the county will handle the claim, Lopez could not say.

“It’s so early in the process that I can’t give a lot of information as to what we’ll do,” he said.

Sheriff Erik Apperson said he had also just received a copy of the claim Tuesday and did not have enough information yet to comment.

He said that with such claims, the sheriff’s department will research the issue, collect records and preserve any perishable data or evidence. He said through the process, investigators will stay in close contact with county legal counsel.

County CAO Jay Sarina was out of the office and not available for comment.

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