WASHINGTON (CN) - Accused of texting a picture of his hand gripping his penis, a D.C. police sergeant might have to produce the real deal to the court for the purpose of comparison, a federal judge ruled.
Laverne Battle is suing the District of Columbia and Sgt. Kevin Pope, her direct supervisor at the Metropolitan Police Department, for sexual harassment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
She claims, as an example of such harassment, that Pope texted her in June 2010 a picture of his left hand holding his penis.
Battle filed a color copy of that photograph with the court and then moved to compel Pope's production of a photograph of his left hand and penis for the purpose of comparison.
U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle on Thursday decided only to have Pope submit "a photograph of his left hand (including thumb and forefinger) positioned in a manner similar to the hand in the photograph" that Battle filed. (Parentheses in original.)
Huvelle said she will consider that image in chambers and in the meantime "hold in abeyance any ruling on plaintiff's motion to compel Sergeant Pope to produce a photograph of his penis."
In fighting production, Pope had argued that the sought-after discovery "would be unjustifiably dehumanizing and embarrassing for him."
Huvelle rejected Battle's claim that Pope would be harmed only if the evidence went to trial.
"The requirement that Sergeant Pope produce the requested photograph is alone
dehumanizing and embarrassing, notwithstanding whether the photograph is ever presented to a jury," the four-page opinion states (emphasis in original).
Pope and the city have noted that Battle received a new cellphone "less than two days before she received the lewd picture message, which came from a phone number traced to Indiana."
She claims "there is a strikingly close resemblance between Sgt. Pope's left thumb and forefinger and the same body parts depicted" in the photograph, according to the ruling.
But Huvelle said her "in camera
review of the grainy, poorly-lit photograph at issue" leaves her "skeptical of plaintiff's confidence that a photograph of Sergeant Pope's penis would be of any comparative value."
"Nor is the court satisfied that there is no less intrusive alternative to requiring Sergeant Pope to produce a photograph of his penis," she added.