Virginia Man Sentenced to Six Months in Jail for Soliciting Sodomy
February 18, 2004
By Doreen Brandt, 365Gay.com Newscenter, Washington
Virginia Beach, Virginia—A
Virginia Beach man has been sentenced to six months in jail for trying to pick
up an undercover police officer in the restroom of a department store
Joel D. Singson was sentenced under Virginia’s sodomy
law. Even though the US Supreme Court struck down sodomy laws last year
Virginia interprets the ruling to exclude sex in a public place.
Circuit Judge Frederick B. Lowe Tuesday sentenced Singson
to three years in prison for one count of solicitation to commit a felony. The
judge suspended all but six months of the sentence and set an appeal bond of
$5,000. The maximum sentence in Virginia for approaching someone for sex in
public place is five years in prison.
The case has gained national attention because of the
state’s continued use of its sodomy law and allegations it is only applied
to gay men.
Singson’s lawyer, Jennifer T. Stanton, said she would
appeal the ruling.
Stanton said Singson has been planning to appeal since he
entered a conditional guilty plea on Dec. 3 after a judge refused to dismiss
the charge on constitutional grounds. The conditional plea preserved
Singson’s right to appeal Stanton said.
Lambda Legal has been following the case and filed a
brief in support of Singson’s defense.
The sentence was “definitely too harsh” especially
since “all sodomy statutes have been declared unconstitutional,” Greg
Nevins, senior staff attorney for Lambda, said Tuesday.
In Singson’s case, Nevins said, the sentence was
especially inappropriate since no physical conduct actually happened.
“This is somebody talking about sex,” Nevins said.
Indictments against five other men are being prepared
according to the prosecutor. The alleged solicitations took place at a public
restroom and two parks.
The Virginia General Assembly will consider changes to
the sodomy law in the current session.
The draft legislation was approved by the Virginia State
Crime Commission last month. It prohibits sodomy in public but the commission
also has recommended keeping a broader application seemingly in direct
conflict with the Supreme Court.
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