Last edited: March 28, 2004

Virginia Man Sentenced to Six Months in Jail for Soliciting Sodomy, February 18, 2004

By Doreen Brandt, Newscenter, Washington Bureau

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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