Charges Dropped In Roanoke Solicitation Cases
Prosecutors Announcement Comes After Second Acquittal In 1998 Police Sting
The Washington Blade,
October 1, 1999
By Bill Roundy
Prosecutors in Roanoke have announced that they will drop the charges against two of
the three remaining defendants accused of soliciting undercover police officers for sex in
a public park.
The announcement follows the second acquittal in the Wasena Park solicitation cases, in
which a jury took just 15 minutes to find Jeffrey Anders not guilty of solicitation.
"The prosecution said that the other cases would have no effect, but they seem to
have [affected their decision]," said Sam Garrison, an openly Gay attorney who will
be defending the remaining case.
In October and November of 1998, Roanoke police arrested 18 men in a sting operation in
Wasena Park, charging them with solicitation to commit a felony. In Virginia, oral or anal
sex between any two people is a felony under the "Crimes Against Nature" law.
Twelve of the men have accepted a conditional plea offered by the prosecution,
accepting a $1,000 fine and two years of probation but retaining the right to file a
challenge to the constitutionality of the "Crimes Against Nature" law. The
appeal has been filed with the Virginia Court of Appeals, which will likely decide whether
or not to hear the case within the next few months. The remaining six defendants pleaded
not guilty to the solicitation charge.
The defense in the trial cases has rested largely on whether or not the conversations
in the park amounted to the legal definition of solicitation: "to entreat, command,
Garrison, speaking at a Sept. 25 Gay civil rights conference in Richmond, said that,
"The defense has been: Yeah, Im Gay, and yeah, I was kind of looking to
pick someone up, but it was never my intention to persuade anyone to do anything they
didnt want to do."
Several defense attorneys have argued that police were overly aggressive in their
tactics, initiating conversations with suspects and deliberately steering the discussions
toward sexual matters.
Defense attorney Ward Armstrong told the Roanoke Times, about the officer who
arrested his client, "I dont think he was a bad cop, but I think in his zeal to
pursue the matter, he didnt let the [suspect] do the asking. He did the asking, and
thats not solicitation."
In the two acquittals, testimony showed that there was no physical contact between the
undercover officers and the defendants. In one case, the two never left their cars, which
were parked side by side.
The first case to go to trial resulted in the conviction of Ronald Waller, who was
sentenced to 60 days in jail and a $1,500 fine. Wallers case differed from the other
cases in that he had touched the officer in a provocative manner.
In the remaining case, scheduled to go to trial later this month, Garrison said that
the defendant had also touched the arresting officer.
"Thats the difference that leaps out to me," Garrison told the Roanoke
Times. He also said that dropping charges against the other two defendants would have
no bearing on the pending case.
One side effect of the Wasena Park cases has been the energizing of the Gay community
in Roanoke, said Ed Harris, a local Gay activist.
"The police sting it caused an outcry," Harris told the Blade.
"We feel like a lot of positive things are happening."
Garrison noted that the solicitation cases have been front-page news in the local
newspaper, which has printed two editorials condemning the police tactics.
"I really think weve won the public relations battle, in Roanoke at
least," said Garrison. "Theres been no volume of anti-Gay letters."
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