Alex Blaze

Need evidence of the homophobia in gay sex stings?

Filed By Alex Blaze | June 15, 2010 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement
Tags: California, cruising for sex, palm springs, police, prosecutor, sex stings

There's an interesting case being developed in Palm Springs concerning public sex stings. LGBT folks have long since abandoned this issue, even un-queering the folks arrested by saying that they're just straight men (because straight men love having sex with other men, and everyone knows it's not gay as long as you don't do it in a building). The link between these cases and LGBT rights should be fairly obvious, but for some reason we think that people getting arrested for having gay sex or for even talking about gay sex in public has nothing to do with real, live gay people.

An attorney representing several of 24 men arrested in an undercover sex sting is seeking information about the police's enforcement of laws against sex in public from the last ten years. While the police love to say that they enforce the law regardless of sexual orientation, that they're after certain kinds of behavior and not certain kinds of people, they never prove those statements and there's really no reason to take someone's word when they're just presenting an excuse to get out of an accusation.

The attorney also has a tape of a cop using a "gay slur" in one of the stings:

A Palm Springs police officer used a gay slur against one of the targets in a summer 2009 Warm Sands public sex sting, a witness who watched a surveillance video of the operation testified in court Monday.

The slur, made by an undercover officer monitoring the sting from a nearby police car, drew laughter from the other officer in the car, said Bruce Nickerson, a defense witness for several of the men facing charges from the Warm Sands operation.[...]

Riverside County Chief Deputy District Attorney Dianna Carter theorized the term used by the officer could have been "just kind of an evil nasty insult to call a person that really does not have anything to do with their sexual orientation."

It would be nice if the Palm Springs Desert Sun would find it in themselves to actually publish the slur in question, considering the attorneys are debating its meaning. It seems relevant to the story and just publishing the word "faggot" or "queer" or whatever isn't going to hurt anyone if it's presented as what the officer said.

And the attorney also has testimony from a former DA that cops were expected to arrest people only on charges that would add names to sex offender registries:

[Former deputy DA Thomas] Hughes and a Palm Springs police sergeant each stated in written testimony the district attorney and Palm Springs police had an advance deal to pursue only the code 314 charges.

It's still not clear whether Hughes' testimony will be included.

When the DA said he wanted only charges that would get gay men on sex offender registries, the police followed orders:

In his 30-year career dealing with such cases, Nickerson said he's never seen such a "vicious" sting where the police decoy consistently pushed all the targets to commit worse offenses.

Most or all of the men arrested were encouraged by the decoy to expose their genitalia after they already could have been arrested for less severe acts, Nickerson said.

Now a police officer is saying that the sex offender registry charges were needed to stop the public sex activity:

Graham said he believed the code 314 charge was "appropriate to the conduct that's being observed" because lesser charges without a necessary sex offender registry had not deterred the Warm Sands behavior. He made his thoughts clear to the district attorney's office, Graham added.

You know, usually these sex offender registries are justified under the banner of "People should be able to protect their children." Usually law enforcement officials don't admit that they're used as a form of punishment, a life-long sentence (in this case) for a misdemeanor that keeps people from getting jobs and finding a place to live. Because that's a pretty harsh punishment for just looking for a little love in all the wrong places.

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It sounds as though the cops (and more than likely the D.A. as well) are being totally dicks here. They're out to ruin these peoples' lives, plain and simple.

I'd have to say that responding to certain come-ons in such public places should be placed in the same category as renting a house through Craig's List from someone you've never met who's (in)conveniently out of the country at the time.

In short... don't do it. If you're really interested, arrange another meeting in another, safer, place rather than risking so much for a little inappropriate fun.

The Registry was originally conceived of a way to help keep kids safe. Now it's being used as a Mark of Cain--to permanently punish those who might have simply made a mistake. What might have been a good idea to start has been corrupted by man's vindictiveness. I suppose we should be glad they don't require folks to be tattooed across the forehead. Yet.

It is not clear from what is written here if the men arrested were actually caught having sex or merely proposing that the accused and the officer go somewhere and do something.

When Willie Brown's AB486, The Consenting Adult Law became law in the mid-70s the legislature failed to change the solicitation law. In California is is OK for consenting adults to do practically anything they wish to do but they can not ask to do it. The solicitation law has nothing to do with prostitution laws which is of course seeking sex for money. The solicitation law covers asking someone to commit a "lewd" act - no money involved.

It is true that in most stings the proportion heterosexually married men arrested runs from 50% to 80%.

It is also true the enforcement of the solicitation law throughout the state is only used against men seeking sex with men.

Usually, if the accused touches the officer in any manner a "battery" charge is added. Battery defined as being touched against one's will.

Changing or repealing the solicitation law seems to be a task the GLBT caucus in the legislature is reluctant to take up.