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It’s Still 1952 In East Baton Rouge (Updated)

Jim Burroway

July 29th, 2013

That was the year that Dale Jennings, a co-founder of the Mattachine Society, was arrested in his own home for allegedly soliciting an undercover police officer for immoral purposes. But unlike nearly everyone else who was arrested for trumped up charges regardless of whether the intended sexual acts were between consenting adults in the privacy of their own home, Jennings fought the charges and won. Since then, sodomy laws have been declared unconstitutional and the legal basis for prosecuting consenting adults in their own homes has been absent in all fifty states and territories since 2003, when the Supreme Court declared those laws unconstitutional.

But the sheriff of East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana, is still partying like it’s 1952:

As the two men moved their chat to a picnic table, the deputy propositioned his target with “some drinks and some fun” back at his place, later inquiring whether the man had any condoms, according to court records. After following the deputy to a nearby apartment, the man was handcuffed and booked into Parish Prison on a single count of attempted crime against nature.

There had been no sex-for-money deal between the two. The men did not agree to have sex in the park, a public place. And the count against the man was based on a part of Louisiana’s anti-sodomy law struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court a decade ago.

The July 18 arrest is among at least a dozen cases since 2011 in which a Sheriff’s Office task force used the unenforceable law to ensnare men who merely discussed or agreed to have consensual sex with an undercover agent, an investigation by The Advocate has found.

The District Attorney refused to prosecute the cases because no laws were broken. But that doesn’t change the fact that at least a dozen men were arrested, read their rights, handcuffed, taken in, booked, fingerprinted, and posted bond. The dozen arrests were made by the Sheriff’s Special Community Anti-Crime Team, which also investigates prostitution and child predators. The task force took advantage of the fact that most of the men arrested were older and had not come out to their families.

After news of the illegal sting operation broke in the Baton Rouge Metro councilman John Delgado sent an email to Sheriff Sid Gautreaux demanding an explanation and apology. The Sheriff’s office responded in a way to make matters worse by equating private, consensual adult activity with public masturbation:

“The Sheriff’s Office has not, nor will it ever, set out with the intent to target or embarrass any part of our law-abiding community,” the Sheriff’s Office statement says.

“We will consult with others in the legislative and judicial branches to see what can be done to remove this law from the criminal code that each deputy receives and to also find alternative ways to deter sexual and lewd activity from our parks,” the statement says.

Delgado’s email says the Sheriff’s Office’s Sunday statement sensationalizes the matter by using terms like “lewd conduct” and “public masturbation” and suggesting that children were present during the arrests.

“The newspaper article makes it quite clear that nothing of the sort occurred in these 12 arrests,” Delgado says. “These men were arrested even though they were innocent of any crime.”

The sheriff’s office claimed that they were merely enforcing the law that was still on Louisiana’s books, and didn’t know that the law had been struck down in 2003: “To our knowledge, the Sheriff’s office was never contacted or told that the law was not enforceable or prosecutable,” the statement says. The Sheriff’s office says they will meet with District Attorney Hillar Moore III to get a lesson on constitutional law. Equality Louisiana also says that the department will also meet with members of the LGBT advocacy group.

Update: Think Progress’ report quoted from the Original Sheriff’s office statement posted on Facebook. That statement has since been removed. The original statement read, in part:

The Sheriff’s Office has not, nor will it ever, set out with the intent to target or embarrass any part of our law-abiding community. Our goal is to Protect and Serve the public. When we receive calls from the public about lewd activity near our children, we have to respond. Our park operations, conducted at the specific request of the BREC Park’s Ranger, were an attempt to deter or stop lewd activity occurring in the park near children. The deputies in the cases were acting in good faith using a statute that was still on the books of the Louisiana criminal code. […]

We want to reiterate our intent in these cases. It was NEVER to target a certain segment of our population. It was only in response to parents, park officials and members of the public concerned that our parks were not safe. When we receive reports of public masturbation, sex and other lewd activity in a park where children are playing, me MUST take these concerns seriously. Our intent was honorable, our approach, however, is something we must evaluate and change. The Sheriff’s Office is not concerned with what consenting adults do in private residences. We are concerned with what is going on in public, especially a public place frequented by children.

The new statement now reads:

The Sheriff’s office apologizes that the way theseinvestigations were handled made it appear that we weretargeting the gay community. That was not our intent. TheSheriff’s Office also apologizes to anyone that wasunintentionally harmed or offended by the actions of our investigations. While sections of La. R.S. 14:89, Crimes Against Nature, have not been removed from the Louisianalaw code, they have been deemed unenforceable andunconstitutional. The Sheriff’s Office will not use theseunconstitutional sections of the law in future cases. We arecommitted to working with all branches of our government,as well as the LGBT community, to find acceptable ways tokeep our community safe.

Comments

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Ben in Oakland
July 29th, 2013 | LINK

If I were one of those men, I would be suing for millions. False arrest ain’t pretty.

Odie
July 29th, 2013 | LINK

Do they not realize that they could be charged with a crime themselves, or de-certified by the state for misconduct? I’ve heard of it happening for less than this.

Odie
July 29th, 2013 | LINK

More to the point, what the hell kind of perverse individual does things like this, just to mess with people’s private business. I’m not gay (I’m just here commenting on this article) and nothing against anybody here…but I would not pretend to be a gay man for any purpose no way no how.

Anyone who attempts to cite conservatism or religion as a basis for this act is a fool, because it has no basis in either. This is crooked law enforcement trying to see what it can get away with pure and simple.

Hunter
July 29th, 2013 | LINK

Ben — my thoughts exactly — sue for false arrest, and if possible, seek multi-million dollar damages against the police department, the city, and the state and the dismissal of all police department personnel involved.

Odie — this law is still on the books for the purpose of intimidation, no other reason.

Lindoro Almaviva
July 29th, 2013 | LINK

Well, we have Cuccinelli’s acts to thankful for that, but I agree, had it been me, I would be suing for millions on top of millions.

Timothy Kincaid
July 29th, 2013 | LINK

I think that entrapment should be a crime, one that carries a very severe penalty. We entrust these people with the authority of the state and give them broad powers with which to protect us, powers denied to average citizens. Abuse of such powers should carry a sentence that is in proportion to the power given. Maybe five years in jail for the Sheriff would remind police officers that the power they weild is not their own.

Odie
July 29th, 2013 | LINK

Yeah, the new statements just reek of “We got caught…now we’re apologizing.”

markanthony
July 29th, 2013 | LINK

Actually, I’m more surprised that anyone would actually cruise in a public park in this day and age. The on-line platforms for that sort of thing are plentiful.

Bill T.
July 29th, 2013 | LINK

In Baton Rouge, a good attorney works better than penicillin when entrapped by a stinging prick.

Hyhybt
July 29th, 2013 | LINK

Suing for millions is expensive. Even aside from whether it has any reasonable chance of success, most people can’t afford to try.

Odie
July 29th, 2013 | LINK

Lots of civil attorneys work on contingency, though. You can’t watch TV for an hour without seeing ads for shady lawyers.

TomTallis
July 29th, 2013 | LINK

It seems to me from this story that the Baton Rouge sherrifs have too much time on their hands and too little to do. Maybe it’s time to cut their budget, by, say 25%?

TomTallis
July 29th, 2013 | LINK

I wonder if an arrest record remains. Employement applications seldom ask if you’ve been convicted; they ask if you’ve ever been arrested. I wonder if those arrest records have been expunged.

Hunter
July 29th, 2013 | LINK

The blowback from the original statement must have been horrendous. The second (revised) statement is simply too funny for words, or would be if it weren’t that so many innocent men were harmed. Persuade me that they weren’t targeting the gay community. Go ahead. And “unintentionally harmed”? They can’t be serious. What was the intent, pray tell? The rest of it is pure drivel.

Joseph Singer
July 29th, 2013 | LINK

Police (both state and local) and sheriffs in Louisiana mostly are corrupt.

Pacal
July 29th, 2013 | LINK

Lets see the Police are seriously arguing that ignorance of the law is an excuse for their conduct! They wouldn’t buy that from the people they arrest so why should we buy it from them.

Finally the ignorance excuse is complete B.S. The case that struck down the “crime against nature” statues was heavily publicized and provoked a very vocal response at the time. That they missed it is nonsensical. They are lying.

Timothy Kincaid
July 29th, 2013 | LINK

Our park operations, conducted at the specific request of the BREC Park’s Ranger, were an attempt to deter or stop lewd activity occurring in the park near children… When we receive reports of public masturbation, sex and other lewd activity in a park where children are playing, me MUST take these concerns seriously.

I have a better idea. If children are playing in the park at 1:00 am, call Child Services. The least of their problems is the old guys in the bushes.

Marek
July 30th, 2013 | LINK

This also shows how important it is to remove unenforceable / unconstitutional laws from the books. It seems like a waste of legislative time, but see? People do get confused.

(And I’m _not_ saying it’s an excuse for the police not knowing the law.)

Jay
July 30th, 2013 | LINK

I suppose I am not particularly surprised at the ignorance of a Southern sheriff and his officers. But these men who were arrested on an unconstitutional law were presumably arraigned before a judge or magistrate who set bond before they were released. Aren’t magistrates and judges supposed to know the law? Shouldn’t they also be held accountable. At least someone in the District Attorney’s office knew better and refused to prosecute these men. However, they were humiliated. and their civil rights were violated. I hope that some will sue the Sheriff and the parish in federal court.

Victor
July 30th, 2013 | LINK

Cynical analysis of the apology:

“The Sheriff’s office apologizes that the way these investigations were handled made it appear that we were targeting the gay community. That was not our intent.”

Our intent was not to make it appear that we were targeting the gay community even though that was our intent.

“The Sheriff’s Office also apologizes to anyone that was unintentionally harmed or offended by the actions of our investigations.”

But not the stinkin’ “preverts” we actually netted.

“While sections of La. R.S. 14:89, Crimes Against Nature, have not been removed from the Louisiana law code, they have been deemed unenforceable and unconstitutional. The Sheriff’s Office will not use these unconstitutional sections of the law in future cases.”

But if we can use any enforceable excuse we will not hesitate to do so.

Preston
July 30th, 2013 | LINK

1952 in Baton Rouge…..or in our gay community???

“…… most of the men arrested were older and had not come out to their families”

I cannot in good faith condemn law enforcement without questioning the behaviors of those who were made victims. If we wish to be recognized as equals in society, perhaps we should start be acting as responsible members of that society. If persons choose to remain closeted and engage certain behaviors, they should also be willing to accept certain consequences.

Rob
July 30th, 2013 | LINK

Preston,

Their behavior was noted in the article, so you must not care enough to actually read what is linked to. They made a date and met up with someone at their home. No activity took place at the park, as noted in all 12 cases.

And just because someone hasn’t come out to their families certainly does NOT mean they should be arrested for meeting someone and arranging to have sex in a private location away from the park. Either you are a troll, or an idiot. Either way…

Charles
July 30th, 2013 | LINK

Preston, what the Democrat sheriff did was illegal. Do you understand that simple fact? Is not the duty of the sheriff to out closeted gays and lesbians?

I guess the sheriff is going to start enforcing the anti-adultery laws, that are probably still on the books, against heterosexuals.

customartist
July 30th, 2013 | LINK

A Dozen gay men arrested? but the Sherrif’s office “had no intent to target gays men”?

So how many STRAIGHT men or women have been arrested?

customartist
July 30th, 2013 | LINK

Ben,
I will bet $100 that those gay men cannot FIND an attorney in Baton rouge who would be willing to represent them considering the issues involved.

Odie,
Are you trying to say that Liberal Atheists entrapped these gay men?

Tom,
There is hardly any such thing as “Expunged” records these days. Once recorded, even “expunged” records can be found in FBI background searches.

Preston,
Would you likewise condemn an opposite-sex couple who met in the park, hit it off, and then went home for a schtupping?

Preston
July 30th, 2013 | LINK

Wow, Rob.. I am disappointed my post caused you to resort to name calling. To reiterate, I do not condone the illegal actions of the sheriff. But I still contend that as a community wishing to be equals we must hold ourselves to a higher standard than that of the general public. If you believe that opinion makes me an ignorant troll, so be it.

Charles
July 31st, 2013 | LINK

Jim, keep us posted on this story.

markanthony
July 31st, 2013 | LINK

The article’s anon. source admits to public sex in the park so there is clearly a problem there.

Yes, thats the wrong tacit to stop the problem. But guys trolling public parks are looking for more than sex. They want that thrill and risk of exposure and they are willing to exploit other people for their needs. Like Preston, I don’t feel too bad for them either.

Rob
July 31st, 2013 | LINK

Preston,
It’s your blame the victim mentality that has me thinking you are an ignorant troll. That is exactly the mentality you expressed, and as such it needs to be smacked down. These men broke no laws, as evidenced in this post and the original article, yet you ignored that fact by questioning the behavior of the victims. And, NO, we don’t need to hold ourselves to a higher standard than the general public, we ARE part of the general public, and it’s pretty shameful when people claiming to be a part of the lgbt community suggest we have to be more, or do more then our fellow citizens. Requiring a higher standard for lgbt people makes us less than equal. And I don’t stay silent when people suggest we have to be better than everyone else in order to be treated equally.
Your blame the victim ideology lead me to believe you were a troll, and ignorant isn’t name calling, it means lacking in knowledge, and you are, or so it appears…

Rob
July 31st, 2013 | LINK

Markanthony-

Not everyone who picks up someone for consensual sex is going to have sex right the on the spot. Some men have sex in the bathrooms of the clubs, but that doesn’t mean all do. Each of these cases must be looked at in the context of this incident only. They got arrested outside the park at what was supposed to be someone’s home. Yes, some may have done things in the past, but if the committed no crime when arrested, we should all feel bad for them.

I sped in my car a time or two and didn’t get caught, but that doesn’t mean I should get a ticket for speeding when I’m going 44 in a 45 zone. It would seem that your lack of empathy might be more of a reflection on what you consider proper sexual activity, rather than the facts presented in these arrests that they broke no laws. If we start arresting people for admitted past bad behavior, then we are all going to jail…

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