Last edited: February 12, 2005

Ohio High Court Okays Secret Video

The Data Lounge, May 2, 2003

COLUMBUS, Oh.—In a unanimous ruling, the Ohio Supreme Court turned aside the appeal of a gay man convicted of public indecency in a 2001 restroom sting operation and let stand a ruling that gives police the right to videotape people using public restrooms without a warrant.

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.

The opinion is in direct conflict 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. 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.

“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.” He expressed disappointed that no LGBT 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, “we have to sit back and take it.” Asked if he planned to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, Henry was firm. After spending more than $5,000 in legal fees, “I’m going to drop it,” he said. “I’m not spending any more money. It’s done.”

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