Last edited: February 06, 2005

Ohio High Court Allows Toilet Camera Conviction to Stand

Gay People’s Chronicle, May 2, 2003
P.O. Box 5426, Cleveland, Ohio 44101
Fax 216-631-1052

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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