Last edited: February 14, 2005

State Employee Sues For Access To Rest Areas

New Bedford Standard-Times, September 2, 1999
Box 5912, New Bedford, MA 02742
Fax 508-997-7852

By Dan Ring, Ottaway News Service

BOSTON – Attorneys for a state mental health coordinator from Cape Cod yesterday asked a judge to order state troopers to stop harassing the gay state employee when he cruises for sex at local rest areas.

The man is suing the Massachusetts State Police over his access to rest areas on Route 6 in Sandwich and I-195 in Wareham.

Known only as John Doe in court papers, he contends that Trooper Shawn Walsh is violating his constitutional rights by intimidating and threatening him when he stops at the rest areas.

"Mr. Doe seeks a court order to enjoin Walsh ... from continuing to roust him from public space when they have no reason to believe he committed a crime or is about to commit a crime," Mary Bonauto, a lawyer for the man, told a judge in Middlesex Superior Court.

He was convicted of misdemeanor lewd and lascivious behavior in Feb. 1998 in Wareham District Court after having sex with another man in the woods adjacent to a Wareham rest area. He was fined $125 and placed on probation for a year.

Since his conviction in 1998, the man alleges, Trooper Walsh has ordered him to leave a rest area on the westbound side of Route 6 in Sandwich between Exits 2 and 3. The man charges that it is not a crime to go to rest areas and meet other men for social or sexual purposes.

Following a court hearing that was mostly closed to the media, Bonauto said there is an agreement with Walsh’s attorney that people can use rest areas as long as they don’t break the law. "We’re trying to work out how to educate state police personnel about the law," she said.

In his lawsuit, the man said that after his 1998 arrest, he stopped engaging in sexual activities in rest areas. But he said he still enjoys stopping at rest areas to make calls on his cell phone and occasionally meet another man for sex that occurs at a later time at a personal residence.

Assistant Attorney General Michelle O’Brien, who is representing Walsh and other state police in their official capacities, said troopers will comply with the law. She stressed that troopers are not admitting they broke the law in ejecting the man from the rest areas.

"It’s our view there’s no need for an injunction to require the police to comply with the law," O’Brien said.

Without explaining herself, Judge Wendie Gershengorn banned reporters from attending most of yesterday’s hearing. The judge scheduled a hearing for Sept. 28 for attorneys to discuss terms of a possible settlement of the lawsuit.

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