Alex Blaze

UK judge explains how people's rights are trampled in cruising cases

Filed By Alex Blaze | November 30, 2009 4:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics, The Movement
Tags: blackmail, closet cases, cruising for sex, due process, judge, law, public, rights, sex, straight

A UK judge had some stern words those who use their power to intimidate those who cruise for sex into giving up their rights. Only two news sources covered the proceedings, and this is all they published from the judge, but it's a great condemnation of a police force that uses the fact that men who cruise for sex are often married and closeted and therefore aren't thinking clearly about their legal rights or the case against them:

Jailing him, Judge Peter Henry told Creamer: 'The people you were targeting undoubtedly would have been in that frame of mind where they weren't going to think straight.

'You were relying on the fact that they were going to panic and pay the money.'

That was the judge in the case of Lee Creamer, a straight man who pretended to be a police officer and cracked down on cruisers and then blackmailing them.

The defendant's lawyer even acknowledged that his client chose his victims because of their sexuality. He still denies that his client is homophobic, but that's a lot more honesty than you'll hear from police who only target men who have sex with men in parks but not straight couples:

Sam Brown, defending, said Creamer had a £300-a-day cocaine habit and needed the money to pay off a drug debt, adding: 'He was not, in any way, homophobic.

'It's important that, whilst he accepts he played a part in crimes that used people's sexuality against them, he himself does not, and has never, held views of that kind.'

While the conditions here and in a normal cruising sting are completely different, the judge actually did acknowledge the very reason people's rights get trampled in these cases. They're often railroaded into pleading guilty, don't want to take the case to court because they're married and closeted, often don't think a lawyer will be able to poke the very obvious holes that these cases already have, and don't want to lose their jobs and be outed. It sets up a power dynamic where the police's victims are often too willing to sign away their rights when they may not have done anything wrong (and often haven't) or the police really don't have the evidence to prove anything.

Indeed, usually when the police are doing it themselves, the stakes in the blackmail are higher. Sign this confession, and no one will ever have to hear about this. If you don't, your name, address, and photo will be published in the local paper. You'll lose your family, your job, and maybe your life.

They risk losing quite a bit more than a few hundred pounds.

So how is Lee Creamer's story one of "relying on the fact that they were going to panic" for nefarious purposes, while this is justice, pure and simple?

"I just thought I was in trouble for urinating in public," he said.

Police allege that Giles exposed himself to an undercover officer. They charged him with indecent exposure and disorderly conduct but did more than just arrest him. Before Giles and the other men were convicted, police released the names, photos and addresses of everyone who had been arrested.

On his way to court, Giles saw his picture in the newspaper and front page headlines. "I was horrified," he said. He says he was told to plead guilty and did so to avoid a harsher punishment that would have come had Giles pled innocent and then been found guilty. Afterward, his employer fired him. "When I lost my job over it my wife was so upset and distraught and distressed that she had a major heart attack," said Giles, whose wife died shortly after ABC News interviewed him. "Right now, it's just about destroyed my life."

Another man, also named by the police, committed suicide.

Am I the only one who thinks there's blackmail going on here? I have less sympathy for this guy, of course, but a sitting Senator doesn't fret over missing his flight unless he's wetting his pants about the prospect of explaining that missed flight.

[Police Sgt. Dave Karsnia]: But there's the, there there's two ways, yes. You can, you can, ah, you can go to court.

You can plead guilty.

[Larry Craig]: Yep.

DK: There'll be a fine. You won't have to explain anything. (inaudible) I know.

LC: Right.

DK: And you'll pay a fine, you be (inaudible), done. Or if you want to plead not guilty, ah, and I, I can't make these decisions for you.

LC: No, no. Just tell me where I am (inaudible) I need to make this flight.

DK: Okay. Okay. And then I go to people that are not guilty, then I would have to come to court and end up testifying. So those are the two things, okay. Did I explain that part?[...]

DK: It's embarrassing.

LC: Well it's embarrassing for both.. I'm not gonna fight you.

DK: I know you're not going to fight me. But that's not the point. I would respect you and I still respect you. I don't disrespect you but I'm disrespected right now and I'm not tying to act like I have all kinds of power or anything, but you're sitting here lying to a police officer.[...]

DK: I just, I just, I guess, I guess I'm gonna say I'm just disappointed in you sir. I'm just really am. I expect this from the guy that we get out of the hood. I mean, people vote for you.

LC: Yes, they do. (inaudible)

DK: unbelievable, unbelievable.

It's not hard to see what the sergeant was implying with "You won't have to explain anything" and "then I would have to come to court and end up testifying." They both even acknowledge the power dynamic that's going to keep a sitting Senator from even hiring a lawyer.

How is this not abusing "that frame of mind where they weren't going to think straight"?

The Creamer case is from the UK, but they have stings over there to hunt down and arrest cruisers just like the US does. It wouldn't be hard to imagine an American judge condemning a cocaine addict who blackmailed cruisers for money, either (and I'm sure that there'd be plenty of Americans who would cheer on the person doing the blackmailing).

The court acknowledged the power dynamic in these situations that renders them more unjust than other accusations, the conditions that make people give up their right to due process separately of the charge of impersonating an officer in the three blackmail charges. The court didn't pretend like the men Creamer "fined" just freely handed over their money to him as a gift, so why do we pretend like those who plead guilty to cruising are doing so freely?

Three victims came forward, but who knows how many others there were. And it seems that what got him caught was being a sloppy cocaine addict who didn't

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It's all about the power dynamics, isn't it?

Alex, I see your points, but --- as I have pointed out so many times before --- if the men are cruising with the intent of taking their found partner to a private location to have sex, then they are doing nothing illegal. If they have sex somewhere in public, then they are doing (or have intent to do) something technically illegal.

Unless I'm missing something, all the cruising men need to do to "protect their rights" is find a private place to have sex. Hey, just buy (or rent, or borrow) a pick-up with a camper shell and cover all the windows.

I am not saying that the police (or civilian) blackmail is not bad --- it is. But straight couples don't have a right to public sex, and neither do gay couples.

This argument may have intellectual merits --- but as a matter of practicality, it is much more difficult to change the law and the attitudes of the legal system than it is to just take your stuff inside.

if the men are cruising with the intent of taking their found partner to a private location to have sex, then they are doing nothing illegal.

That's part of what I'm talking about - people who haven't done anything illegal but end up getting blackmailed (although we don't call it that) by the police. You make the distinction, but a married guy who's in the park looking for someone to take back to his hotel while he's out of town will hear the police officer tell him that if he signs the confession, he won't have to explain to his wife why he has to go back to that city and have his name published in the paper.

So he signs the guilty plea, the police report is filled with lies that go unchallenged, and he hasn't broken the law.

If there was a way to protect these people's rights in these stings, that'd be an improvement. But it doesn't seem like there's a way to sort out the people who actually broke the law from the people who the police just want to hassle because they presume they were going to have gay sex.

Well, your point is a bit clearer now.

However, if the men are single there is no substitute for having the balls to stand up for oneself.

And if the men are married, then we must admit that they are being unfaithful to a wife they claim to want to hold onto. Nobody forced them to get married (I presume) and if they want the marriage to last then they should maintain it. (I'm not saying this from a moralistic or judgmental position, I'm saying it from a practical, do-what-works perspective.)

If a guy is gay and wants to be a family man, there are two options: 1) Marry a woman who knows you are gay or bi, and doesn't mind your male-to-male relationship(s), or 2) Find a male lover and adopt kids. Getting married and then living a secret life is fucked up in itself (IMHO), and the consequences of getting arrested for cruising are just a symptom of that. It's not that different from being caught with "the other woman" --- you can get divorced and fired for doing that, too (although you are not likely to get arrested).

I also agree, Alex, that there is a selective enforcement issue here. Straight guys might get away with getting caught while banging their girlfriend in the back seat, while two guys doing the same will get arrested and get run thru the horror mill you describe. That, I agree, is not a level playing field.