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Lawsuit: Ex-Montgomery cop ordered woman to bare her breasts

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A former Montgomery police officer told a woman to pull out her bra and shake her breasts during an illegal search for marijuana in her vehicle, a federal lawsuit filed earlier this week alleges.

Rachel Jett, 33, is suing the Montgomery Police Department and former officer Conrad M. Carpenter on allegations that Carpenter violated the woman's constitutional rights during a traffic stop by searching her vehicle without a warrant in 2009.

Carpenter, 31, resigned from the police department earlier this year and faces charges in Fayette County in relation to a separate incident, where he allegedly used the city's credit card to purchase fuel for a vehicle he owned.

On Oct. 26, 2009, Carpenter pulled Jett over on a traffic violation but never issued a citation, Jett's lawyer, Mike Clifford, wrote in the lawsuit.

In a search warrant affidavit filed days later, Carpenter said he stopped Jett's vehicle because he had seen the woman's passenger exit a house at 151 6th Ave, which the officer said was suspicious, the lawsuit states.

Jett's passenger admitted during the stop that Amanda Pancake, the owner of the house, had sold her drugs, Carpenter allegedly wrote in the warrant.

"That conversation never took place," Clifford told the Gazette on Thursday, "and Officer Conrad never obtained any drugs from the passenger of that car and never found any drugs in the Pancake house."

Carpenter searched Jett's car without a warrant or her consent, the lawsuit states. During the search, he allegedly ordered Jett to pull out her bra and shake out her breasts. He did not seek assistance from a female officer.

After the traffic stop, Carpenter requested a search warrant for Pancake's home and submitted it to Montgomery Mayor James Higgins, who also is a municipal judge.

In the search warrant affidavit, Carpenter falsely alleged that he had searched the car and found marijuana on Jett's passenger, the lawsuit states. Based on the reportedly false find, Higgins granted the search warrant on Pancake's home without the legal authority to do so, the lawsuit states.

Carpenter searched Pancake's home the day after Higgins granted the warrant and allegedly found a small amount of marijuana. He later charged Pancake with simple possession.

"He didn't show [the marijuana] to her, and she reports that she doesn't smoke marijuana," Clifford said. "So, the whole thing is just a little bit left of the Fourth Amendment."

The possession charge was dropped after Pancake completed a pre-trial diversion program, Clifford said.

Montgomery city lawyer Brian Parsons declined to comment on the lawsuit. Montgomery Police Chief Jack Brown said that he was not aware of the incident that gave rise to the lawsuit.

Carpenter has worked for at least two police departments in the past two years, having been fired from the Charleston Police Department in 2008.

In 2007, Carpenter and Cpl. James E. White Jr., were charged with spotlighting, hunting from an automobile, shooting a gun within 500 feet of a dwelling, possession of wildlife parts and conspiracy, after authorities said the officers were hunting deer from their vehicles.

Carpenter pleaded no contest to illegal possession of wildlife, shooting within 500 feet of a building and hunting from an automobile. White pleaded no contest to illegal possession of animal parts, according to previous Gazette reports.

Both officers were fired from the department after an internal investigation. White moved on to the Marmet Police Department and Carpenter got a job in Montgomery. White left the Marmet force in April 2009.

"It's the same old song," Clifford said. "They go up one side of the valley and down the other."

In September, a Fayette County grand jury indicted Carpenter on two felony counts of fraudulent use of a government purchase card for allegedly using the city's credit card to buy about $130 worth of fuel for his own vehicle.

Chief Brown said the department had investigated Carpenter internally for a separate incident. Carpenter voluntarily resigned from the department earlier this year, Brown said.

Reach Zac Taylor at zachary.taylor@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5189.


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