Last edited: December 05, 2004

Sodomy Case Can Proceed, Judge Says

Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, October 30, 2003
P.O. Box 449, Norfolk, VA 23501-0449
Fax: 757 446-2051

By Ellyde Roko, The Virginian-Pilot

VIRGINIA BEACH—A judge ruled Wednesday that the case against a man accused of soliciting sodomy could proceed, despite a U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning a Texas law against sodomy.

Joel D. Singson is accused of soliciting sodomy from an undercover officer in a shopping mall bathroom.

Circuit Judge Edward W. Hanson Jr. said the June Supreme Court ruling in Lawrence v. Texas applied to sodomy that occurs in private, not sodomy that takes place in public.

“I feel to rule any other way would be to fly in the face of the Supreme Court,” Hanson said.

Singson is charged with solicitation to commit a felony. Sodomy is a felony under Virginia law, although the law does not distinguish between private and public sodomy.

In August, Singson testified that he had approached an undercover officer in the bathroom of the Sears store at Pembroke Mall in March.

The officer, Detective Jarvis D. Lynch, testified that the sexual act was to take place in one of the bathroom stalls. After discussing the act, Lynch contacted his arrest team via an electronic device and Singson was arrested.

Singson’s attorney, Jennifer T. Stanton, argued Wednesday that the Lawrence ruling made Virginia’s law against soliciting sodomy void.

But Hanson said the law, as applied in Singson’s case, was constitutional.

“It is invalidated as to private conduct, but this is public conduct,” Hanson said. “One can only imagine what would happen if I were to rule the other way.”

Commonwealth’s Attorney Harvey L. Bryant III said the ruling fit the facts of the case. “It means that offensive, illegal conduct in public places will continue to be prosecuted in Virginia Beach,” he said. Similar cases are pending elsewhere across Virginia, Bryant said.

Bryant also said public solicitation of sodomy continues to be illegal, regardless of whether the act would take place in public or private.

Singson’s trial is set for Dec. 3. If convicted, Singson could face up to five years in prison.

But Stanton said the trial likely will not be the end of the process.

“Either way you look at it, whether he’s found guilty or not guilty, the opposing side will appeal because it’s a case involving a serious legal shift,” she said.

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