Submitting to the sharia. Source: Settlement agreement in hijab lawsuit reached, Ventura County Sheriff’s Office says
Settlement terms have been reached in a federal lawsuit against the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office concerning a Muslim woman whose head scarf was removed while she was in custody, officials announced Monday.
The civil rights lawsuit concerns Newbury Park resident Jennifer Hyatt, whose hijab was removed by deputies in Ventura County jail in January 2017. Hyatt had been arrested in Thousand Oaks in connection with a domestic violence incident and spent about four hours at the facility.
The sheriff’s agency and Hyatt’s legal team have reached terms of a settlement agreement through a mediator, said Capt. Garo Kuredjian. The agreement includes a $75,000 total payment to Hyatt and her attorneys as well as a policy manual update that formalizes accommodations for religious head coverings.
“We think this is a pretty fair outcome for both sides,” Kuredjian said.
Sheriff Geoff Dean’s office said in a statement that “the settlement was reached to save taxpayers the expense of further litigation, including exposure to attorney’s fees.”
The policy manual update states that arrested parties wearing a religious head covering can wear the covering “or an approved alternative such as a paper hijab” while in custody. The garment is used in the Islamic faith to cover certain parts of a woman’s body while in public view so they will not be seen by men who are not members of their immediate family, according to the complaint.
Standard practice when people are booked into jail calls for removal of clothing and items that can be used as strangulation devices, including belts, shoelaces, scarves and other items, according to the sheriff’s agency.
The federal suit, filed in May, drew widespread media attention. Hyatt’s complaint alleged deputies had “yanked off” her head covering and that she was “spoken to like trash.” The suit claimed the forced removal of the hijab violated her civil rights.
Dean has strongly disputed that portrayal of how his deputies handled the incident. Monday’s statement reiterated his stance.
“Video and audio footage from the jail’s camera system show that her hijab was not ‘violently yanked’ from her head,” the statement reads. “… Ms. Hyatt’s hijab was removed in a gentle and respectful manner to inspect an injury to her head and for safety and security reasons.”
The Star in May requested access to the video footage via the California Public Records Act. The request was denied. A sheriff’s official said Monday that the videos will not be made public.
In Monday’s statement, the sheriff’s agency acknowledged Hyatt should have been offered an accommodation such as an alternate head covering. The agency has previously said men were present at times when Hyatt was uncovered and that her booking photo was taken with the head covering removed.
A spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Greater Los Angeles chapter, which represented Hyatt in the case along with Erin Darling Law, said Monday the settlement agreement had not yet been finalized. The group will comment after it becomes final, he said.
The Ventura County Board of Supervisors approved parameters of a tentative agreement Sept. 25, said Leroy Smith, the county’s top attorney. The final language has since been worked out. Now, both parties must sign the agreement and file it in court to finalize it, he said.