Ohio High Court Allows Toilet Camera Conviction to Stand
People’s Chronicle, May 2, 2003
P.O. Box 5426, Cleveland, Ohio 44101
By Eric Resnick
Columbus—The Ohio Supreme Court
has allowed a ruling to stand that police may videotape people using public
restrooms without a warrant.
The court decided unanimously April 23 not to hear the
appeal of a gay man convicted of public indecency in a 2001 restroom sting
operation near East Liverpool.
Police, attempting to stop sexual activity, concealed
video cameras inside men’s room light fixtures at an Ohio Department of
Transportation rest stop at Ohio Routes 7 and 213. The cameras ran eight hours
a day for several months, taping every man as he used the facility.
The court made no comment on the case. It let stand a
December 18, 2002 ruling by the Seventh Ohio District Court of Appeals that
James Henry, 48, of Empire had “no reasonable expectation of privacy so long
as he remained in the common area” of the restroom. This opinion conflicts
with U.S. Supreme Court decisions that cameras in public restrooms, locker
rooms, jail cells, and dressing rooms constitute illegal searches and thus
violate the Fourth Amendment.
Henry’s conviction in a Jefferson County Court is based
on a tape showing him in the restroom for 47 seconds on May 9, 2001. The tape
shows Henry entering, standing at the urinal, and leaving the restroom.
At the trial, prosecutors convinced the jury that because
Henry stepped back from the urinal before fastening his pants, anyone entering
the restroom “could have” come to the conclusion that he was masturbating.
“I’m going to drop it,” said Henry of the case.
“I’m not spending any more money. It’s done.”
Henry said he has spent about $5,000 on legal fees so
far, and still must pay his $300 fine and spend five days in jail.
The other 12 gay men arrested in the operation paid fines
between $100 and $150 after promising they would not fight the charges.
“It’s politics,” said Henry of his conviction.
“If the same thing happens to a judge’s son or daughter that isn’t gay,
see what happens.”
Henry is disappointed that no GLBT advocacy organization
showed interest in his case. He said that his having to fight alone is a sign
of community weakness.
“As long as we have to fight alone,” said Henry,
“whatever happens, we have to sit back and take it.”
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