Thursday, June 22, 2006

hamilton county cops crack down on cruising

anyone who knows a thing or two about gay culture has likely familiar with cruising, the practice of hanging out in public and looking for other gay men (often for sex, but not necessarily). cruising is not a safe activity by any stretch of the imagination, but not so long ago it was one of the only ways for gays who didn't live in large urban centers to find one another, due to long-standing taboos against homosexuality. these days there are safer ways for gays to socialize, but cruising still goes on, though modern cruisers tend to be older.

knowing all this, i'm not sure what bugs me the most about this indystar story:

Nearly two dozen people have been arrested this week on charges of lewd behavior at Westfield's Cool Creek Park, and officials said other Hamilton County public places are being watched.

On Wednesday, Hamilton County Sheriff Doug Carter and Jeff Wehmueller, administrative chief deputy at the Hamilton County prosecutor's office, announced 22 people had been arrested, all charged with indecency-related offenses. Two warrants are outstanding, Carter said.

Because much of the behavior occurred in a public park that is equally accessible to adults and children, Wehmueller elevated the charges against many of the suspects to felonies.

If convicted on the felony charge of performance harmful to a minor, the suspects could receive jail sentences ranging from six months to three years.

Wehmueller said that although none of the incidents involved or was witnessed by children, the threat that a minor would see the sexual activities paved the way for the harsher charges.

did you catch that? these people are not pedophiles. not one of them was there looking for children. they were all adults, with no kids anywhere nearby. but because theoretically a child could have accidentally stumbled across some man-on-man action, they are facing felony charges.

According to probable cause affidavits, at least four undercover officers made contact with the suspects, either near the restroom or in a parking lot at Cool Creek. Police and a suspect often would agree to take a walk on one of the nature trails that wind through the heart of the park. Once inside the forested area of Cool Creek, the suspects would expose or fondle themselves or attempt to engage in such behaviors with the officers.

haven't they heard it's not nice to tease?

one of the men who was busted was an employee of carmel high school who resigned a few days after his arrest. the star quotes his lawyer as saying he "resigned in an effort to protect the school", but i have to wonder if he resigned by choice or was pressured into doing so. i won't quote his name (it's in the article if you want to know), but i have to quote this passage: he "was in his parked pickup when an undercover officer made contact. The pair walked into the park on one of the nature trails, police said, and at some point engaged in intimate acts." what does "engaged in intimate acts" mean? to me, it reads like the cop actually had sex with this guy, which would be a major no-no.

i just had to know what people were saying on the indy star forums about this story, so i braced myself and dove in, knowing full well that i would see comments calling the arrestees "social parasites" and "perverts" and demanding they "[need] their faces plastered all over the newspapers for weeks and weeks and weeks so none of us forget WHO they are!!!!" or better yet they should "be placed on a Sexual Predator list, if not taken out and shot!"

but then there were posts like this and this and this, defending the carmel high school teacher and chastising the star for dragging his name through the mud. (the online version of the star article lists the names and hometowns of all arrestees, but doesn't go into further detail about the others. some of the forum comments suggest that the printed edition of the paper didn't even list the names of the other arrestees, but i don't have a paper version in front of me to check.)

and i would be remiss if i didn't mention this insightful post from brian1973:

Did anybody else make the connection that the men engaging in homosexual activity were charged with lewd conduct AND felony charges of Felony performance harmful to minors, while the straight couple having sex was only charged with public indecency. In no way do i condone what these men did, but the police seem to have it in for homosexuals.

indeed, the online star article lists all 22 arrestees and the charges against them. of the arrestees, 21 were men, and 20 were charged with felony performance harmful to a minor. who were the two people not charged with the felony? if you guessed that the woman was one of them, give yourself a cookie. and it sure seems likely that the other was her partner: they are both in their 20s (every other arrestee was 35 or older) and they are the only two to hail from sheridan, indiana.

so let that be a lesson to you. straight sex in public = misdemeanor. gay sex in public = felony.

update: advance indiana has more.

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