Picking up the Pieces
One man tries to move on, and help others
June 19, 1998
By M. Jane Taylor
Don Chandler said he had both encountered and heard of at least two instances of police
impersonation in the Annapolis, Maryland, area where he lives, and had heard and read
stories about Gay "pick-up" murders. So when a man followed Chandler into a
video booth at an adult video store in Annapolis last August and then told Chandler he was
an Anne Arundel County Police officer and placing Chandler under arrest, Chandler was
suspicious and frightened.
"I said, Im not going anywhere without knowing who say you are. May I
see some identification?" Chandler recalled. The man said he had none. Neither
did his buddy, who emerged from an adjoining video booth. Chandler said the first man
again commanded him to following him, to an unmarked car: "Ive got some
[identification] in the car. Go out through the front of the store. Keep quiet, I
dont want to make a scene. Lets go."
As Chandler walked past the clerks desk at the front of the store, the two
officers trailing behind him, he turned to the clerk for help.
"These guys claim to be cops?" Chandler said he asked, with a questioning
look. The clerk, he said, shrugged his shoulders and scowled. The officers grabbed
Chandler and dragged him out of the store. They charged him with indecent exposure (behind
the locked door of the video booth), resisting arrest (he said it was because he requested
the officer show him some identification), and obstructing justice (for revealing the
undercover officers as such to others in the store).
From 9 p.m. Aug. 8 until 5:30 a.m. Aug. 9, Chandler, 54, sat in a cellblock with both
his hands and feet in cuffs. The police action at the bookstore continued through the
night. By 2 a.m., there were 14 people in five cells, 12 of whom were arrested at the
For Chandler, the arrest was just the beginning of an experience that would ultimately
lead to him losing his job at a church.
Anne Arundel County Police arrested at least 48 men during a series of undercover
stings at the 20/20 Books and adult video store between May and August last year. They
were reportedly responding to complaints that "lewd activity" was taking place
inside and surrounding the shop. The charges filed against men arrested in such situations
generally include indecent exposure, solicitation for lewdness (sexual acts), and
fourth-degree sex offense (touching).
20/20 Books in Annapolis is one of several meeting points around the country that are
popular with some men for cruising other men and popular with some police for sting
operations. There are no statistics for how many men are arrested in these stings because
the actual charges vary from place to place, according to attorney Michael Adams of the
American Civil Liberties Unions Lesbian & Gay Rights Project.
Nevertheless, Adams said he thinks this type of arrest has been happening on an
increasingly larger scale, partly because of the increasing availability to the public of
information that used to be more underground. Internet sites such as
www.cruisingforsex.com contain "entrapment" alerts from men around the country,
reporting police operations at areas where men are known to cruise.
"Police departments that choose to focus their resources in this area are getting
onto the Internet ... and finding online resources talking about where Gay men get
together and meet," he said. "Certain police departments decide that they are
going to become morality police and focus their resources on policing the
sexual lives of people."
It is hard to prevail in court by claiming entrapment, Adams said, because the
defendant generally has to show that he was not predisposed to commit the offense.
"Its an uphill battle," he said.
The support for the police targeting of Gay men, according to the ACLU and Gay civil
rights activists, lies in sodomy laws that prohibit certain forms of consensual sexual
activity, such as oral and anal sex. Maryland is one of 20 states where sodomy-type laws
are still on the books, and it is one of four states .(including Kansas, Missouri, and
Arkansas) that prohibit sodomy between same-sex couples and not heterosexual couples.
Currently, the ACLU is challenging these laws in Kansas and Maryland and will soon file
a suit in Puerto Rico. Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund has a suit pending in
Following the arrests in Maryland last August, the state dropped the charges against
Chandler. At a hearing on May 15, the court placed his case on a "stet file,"
meaning it could be officially brought up again for any reason within a year, and after a
year it can be brought back up if a judge decides there is "good cause."
Various forms of plea bargaining are often used as a means of settling misdemeanor
criminal cases in Maryland, according to attorney Stephen Mercer of Rockville, Md., who
has defended a number of these types of cases.
"Typically, when an individual who does not have a prior criminal record is
charged with that type of offense, the state attorneys office will generally not ask for
incarceration but will require some amount of community service," Mercer said.
"Every county has different procedures, and the vast majority of criminal charges
result in a plea bargain," he said. "But I think with these types of charges,
the real punishment comes when the list of individuals who have been arrested is published
in the local newspaper," he added. "That really is what is very harmful, because
it is such a titilating crime."
So for Chandler and many others for whom the charges have been dispensed with, the
punishment is already meted out. Some newspapers around the country have policies of
routinely publishing the names and addresses of all men arrested during these type of
police sweeps. That, for most of the arrested men, is more severe than any sentence from a
court. One man committed suicide Jan. 30 in Pulaski County, Ark., after the Arkansas
Democrat-Gazette in Little Rock published an article listing his name as being arrested in
a public sex raid.
According to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), the man left
behind a suicide note to his male partner of 31 years: "My name and everything is in
the paper this morning. ... Goodbye. I love you."
The newspaper did not report his suicide and ignored requests from five major
organizations to have a meeting about its policy of selective publication of the names of
men arrested for misdemeanors, according to GLAAD.
On Aug. 12, in the Annapolis Capital newspaper published Chandlers name, age,
address, and the official charges against him.
"And then I lost my job," he said, even though the charges were later
For three years, Chandler had worked at St. Martins-In-The-Field Episcopal Church
in Severna Park, Maryland, where he was openly Gay and served as director of music and
"My pastor called me about a few hours after the paper came out on Tuesday
afternoon ... saying he had received a phone call [and] and wanted to know what had
happened," he said. "I had not yet seen a lawyer. I basically spilled the whole
A day later, Chandler said, he submitted his resignation "under protest," for
fear that if he stayed it would have the effect of tearing apart the two childrens
choirs he had started two years earlier.
Since then, Chandler has concentrated on a part-time piano tuning business he has had
for the past 10 years and has been doing some substitute church organist work.
Anonymous male-male sex has become a hot topic since the May 14 arrest of pop music
star George Michael. Michael was arrested for performing a "lewd act" in a
public restroom in Beverly Hills, Calif. Following his arrest, news networks around the
country began airing exposÚs on where men cruise men for anonymous sex, further fueling
police sting operations.
For Chandlers part, he is trying to turn his ordeal into an opportunity.
"It was obviously entrapment and unjust, and I want to do what I can to get this
stopped," he said.
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