Last edited: February 14, 2005

Importuning’s Last Gasp

Police Charge Toledo Man, but He Knew the Law Had Been Struck Down

Gay People’s Chronicle, June 21, 2002
P.O. Box 5426, Cleveland, Ohio 44101
Fax: 216-631-1052

By Eric Resnick

Bryan, Ohio—A Toledo man may have been the last Ohioan charged with importuning, until he told police the law had been struck down.

Peter van Herwaarden, 63, was charged after he sent a sexual letter to a man he met on a telephone chat line.

Police in Bryan, 45 miles west of Toledo, confirmed that they had to drop the importuning charges May 30 after van Herwaarden informed them that the Ohio Supreme Court had voided the law on May 15.

The court found that the 1974 measure, which outlawed asking for gay or lesbian sex but not heterosexual sex, violated constitutional free speech and equal protection guarantees.

A complaint was filed against van Herwaarden by Mark Z. Perez, 20, of Bryan after Perez received the sexually explicit letter from van Herwaarden on May 28.

According to van Herwaarden, the two met on the phone dating line Mega Phone on May 20, when a man calling himself "Zack" answered his personal ad. Van Herwaarden said the two had four to five telephone contacts between May 20 and 22 before he wrote the letter describing the sexual fantasies he wanted to act out with "Zack."

Perez told police his middle name is Zacharius and his nickname used to be Zack. Perez claimed to police that he had no idea who van Herwaarden is, and could not understand how he got his address.

Van Herwaarden said "Zack" called him again after the letter had been received. Perez confirmed that to police, but said that his mother got the number from directory assistance and he called to see why the letter was sent.

Van Herwaarden said Zack was different during that call and told him that the letter had been intercepted by someone else in the home. The Gay People’s Chronicle confirmed independently that the cell phone number given to van Herwaarden reaches Perez.

But Perez told Detective Jeff Arnold that he wanted to press charges against van Herwaarden.

Arnold contacted van Herwaarden the morning of May 30 and told him he was going to be charged with importuning.

Bryan city attorney Rhonda Fisher confirmed that Arnold had consulted with her on the charges prior to calling van Herwaarden.

Fisher would not say if she would have pursued importuning charges had van Herwaarden not told Arnold of the Supreme Court ruling.

Instead, she said, "I find what is contained in that letter the most disgusting thing I have ever seen," and complained, "Now I’m the one who has to tell [Perez] that there is nothing I can do about this."

After Fisher researched the issue, police declared the case closed. Van Herwaarden has agreed not to have any further contact with Perez.

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