Dec. 12, 2002
Woman Sues Wal-Mart After Being Questioned About Photos
Wal-Mart Customers React To Photo Case
SALINA, Kan. (AP) -- A woman interrogated by police after a Wal-Mart store reported film she brought in for processing included partially nude pictures of her 3-year-old daughter is suing the big retailer.
In the suit filed in Saline County District Court, Tamie Dragone said she was humiliated and her family's privacy invaded by the store's action. She asks for more than $75,000 in actual damages, plus unspecified punitive damages.
According to the petition, Dragone went to the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Salina on Sept. 3 and dropped off a roll of family snapshots for one-hour processing, then continued to shop elsewhere in the store.
She was approached by a uniformed Salina police officer. He and another officer took Dragone and her children, the 3-year-old and another girl not quite 1, to the manager's office at the rear of the store.
She was detained for about 45 minutes while the officers questioned her about her photos. She said one showed the 3-year-old topless as she played in a back-yard kiddie pool with her father, and another showed the little girl's naked bottom as she lay on the living room floor.
When the officers let Dragone leave, she was not allowed to take the photos with her.
"There was nothing inappropriate about them," she said. "This was a child being a child. This is not like taking nude pictures of a 10-year-old."
"They totally invaded my privacy, and they made me feel like a criminal," Dragone said.
Saline County Attorney Ellen Mitchell said she declined to file criminal charges after reviewing the case and the photographs.
Dragone and her husband, Lincoln physician Larry Dragone, have lived for two years with their two daughters on a buffalo ranch in Lincoln County.
"I wasn't so much angry as humiliated," she said. "I've shopped there on a regular basis, two or three times a week for the last couple of years, and there are employees there who know me by my face."
She said that after she was released she quickly left the store after buying something for her children from its restaurant.
"This is about the most humiliating thing I've ever been through," Dragone said. "It's unnerving. I love my children so much, and for anyone to ever question that (is wrong.)"
The Salina Wal-Mart store referred questions to the firm's corporate headquarters. Cynthia Illick, a corporate spokeswoman for Wal-Mart in Bentonville, Ark., said that Wal-Mart's policy is to not print photos containing nudity.
"In a case where child pornography or abuse is suspected, the photos are brought to the attention of the store management and a determination is made to contact law enforcement," Illick said. "We always (err) on the side of safety when it comes to children."
Tom Boone, a Hays attorney representing Dragone, said Wal-Mart's company policy that it doesn't print pictures of any male or female in a state of undress not allowable on a public street is stricter than the Kansas law on sexual exploitation of a child. The law bans possession of photos or other visual media incorporating depictions of sexually explicit conduct by children under 18 years old.
Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.