Saturday, December 29, 2007

Ohio Entrapment?

A Columbus, Ohio firefighter is appealing his conviction on indecent exposure charges that arose after he exposed himself in an Ohio park - at the request of a topless, female sunbather.

She turned out to be a police officer.

ABC News reports on this case and other recent, U.S. cases in which defendants have alleged they were entrapped:

Robin Garrison, an off-duty 42-year-old firefighter, was walking in Berliner Park in Columbus, Ohio, in May when he saw a woman sunbathing topless under a tree.

He approached her and they started talking and getting comfortable, the woman smiling and resting her foot on his shoulder at one point.

Eventually, she asked to see Garrison's penis; he unzipped his pants and complied. Seconds later, undercover police officers pulled up in a van and arrested Garrison; he was later charged with public indecency, a misdemeanor, based on video footage taken by cops... While topless sunbathing is legal in the city's parks, exposing more than that is against the law.

...The case is just one of the more extreme examples of police stings aimed at luring people into committing crimes, a tactic that has resulted in hundreds of arrests, many convictions and plenty of controversy.

Law enforcement officials say that such sting operations are an extremely effective means of lowering crime rates and stopping the criminally minded before they commit worse offenses... But such operations veer dangerously close to entrapment, say lawyers, civil libertarians and defendants who've been caught in sting operations.

(h/t - Canada, Eh)

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto


Update March 26, 2009:

It has come to our attention that there may be less to this story than we originally reported.

Readers' attention is directed to comments posted today by a reader identifying himself as Detective Jeff Ackley of the Columbus Police force:

Your story is completely wrong. The female was not a cop and or associated with the police in any way. The defense attorney stated that for the benefit of his client. 
There was no police sting. The area (Berliner Park) is known to be frequented by men who come there to have sex with each other in public. UC detectives were working the area, spotted the female sunbathing topless close to the main road. Police requested that she move to a different part of the park as to not cause an accident on the main road next to the park. She complied (Though she did not have to). 

While conducting there regular investigations in the park, the female was approached by the fireman. For her safety, police kept an eye on her because she was doing nothing illegal. The male exposed himself and was placed under arrest as is routinely done anywhere else in the city.

If you doubt anything I wrote, research the case. The (High profile) defense attorney appealed the case and lost.

The story got twisted in the media due to the high profile attorney misrepresenting the facts before trial to turn public opinion on his side. He failed.

I'll also link to the following clarification found at Outside the Beltway

UPDATE: According to the Columbus Dispatchs account of the story (via an update to and comments in DRJ’s piece, linked above) the woman was not a police officer, making entrapment a harder sell. At the same time, however, she was apparently attracting — and happily encouraging — quite a bit of lewd attention:

Detective Dick Elias said vice officers had set up the video because they were targeting men who were having sex or masturbating in the park — not men who had come to see her.

The woman had been sunbathing topless near the front of the park for days, he said, and “had become a spectacle” with men driving by to watch.

It is legal for women to be topless in Columbus.

So Elias asked the woman to move to the rear of the park, which she did. But men still drove by to see her. Another man, whose name wasn’t mentioned, was charged the same afternoon as Garrison for exposing himself to the woman.

Essentially, this was the equivalent of a speed trap: A situation existed where lawbreaking was quite likely and the police were there hoping to make arrests.

- Garry J. Wise


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