Last edited: January 04, 2005

3 More Men Plead Guilty to Seeking Sex in Park

The Men's Conditional Pleas Allow Them To Appeal On The Grounds That The State's Anti-Sodomy Law Is Unconstitutional

Roanoke Times, June 10, 1999
P. O. Box 2491, Roanoke, VA 24010
Fax 703-981-3204

By Laurence Hammack, The Roanoke Times

Three more men charged with soliciting undercover police officers for sodomy in a Roanoke park pleaded guilty Wednesday.

The pleas bring to 12 the number of men convicted so far in a police operation aimed at discouraging cruising among gay men in Wasena Park and the sometimes open sexual activity associated with the practice.

Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Alice Ekirch said police put undercover officers in the park last autumn after nearby residents complained about the problem. Eighteen men were charged based on conversations they had with the officers.

The men were accused of soliciting the officers to commit a felony, in this case sodomy. Virginia law makes it a felony for consenting adults to engage in oral sex.

Pleading guilty were George E. Franklin, 42; Nickolas Fitzgerald, 37; and Ronnie E. Mundy, 51. As part of plea agreements, Judge Clifford Weckstein imposed the same punishment offered to all 18 defendants: a fine of $1,000, a 12-month suspended jail sentence and a ban from all city parks for the next five years.

The men were allowed to enter conditional pleas, which allows them to appeal their convictions on the grounds that the state's anti-sodomy law is an unconstitutional invasion of privacy rights.

While the men who pleaded guilty Monday intend to appeal, no decision has been made by the three who were convicted Tuesday, according to defense attorney Tom Wray.

The remaining six men turned down the plea agreement and have elected to plead not guilty and face juries, Ekirch said.

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