Springfield, Ohio--Eleven men were arrested in Buck Creek State Park after an eight-hour park sex sting operation on July 7 and 8.
According to park officer David Klopfstein, this was the first such operation in three years at the park.
Klopfstein said that the park office usually receives between 15 and 20 complaints about public nudity and sexual activity a month. This spurred the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Clark County Sheriff�s Department to launch the investigation, in which officers posed as men interested in sex.
The eleven men were arrested for either exposing themselves or touching an officer sexually. They are charged with public indecency, a fourth-degree misdemeanor carrying a maximum penalty of 30 days imprisonment and a $250 fine. The ones who touched the officer are charged with sexual imposition, a third degree misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of a $500 fine and 60 days in jail.
Public indecency means exposing oneself in view of other people in a public place, while sexual imposition means touching another person in a sexual way knowing that the other person might be offended by the contact.
While police stings in public parks are often accused of being homophobic entrapment, Klopfstein insists that everything is being done by the book.
�They�re acting based on their training,� he noted.
He also pointed out that there were no rookies on the case.
�I think the least senior one has probably been on the force eight to ten years,� he said.
In other areas, police have been accused of sending very young, attractive officers into such settings to entice men to hit on them, then arresting the men.
Klopfstein also noted that there are usually between 15 and 20 arrests made for heterosexual activity in the park per season.
It was not known at press time if the men who were arrested would simply plead guilty, hoping for lenient sentences. Many men arrested in such circumstances take plea agreements to avoid further publicity.
The Springfield News Sun printed the names of all eleven men and the addresses of eight. One of the men was from Florida, another Toledo. The rest were from the Springfield area, just east of Dayton.
Edele Passalacqua, an attorney in Cleveland who has successfully defended clients against park-sex charges, noted that the sexual imposition charge requires third-party corroboration.
�There cannot be a conviction based on the testimony of the victim himself,� she noted.
Ohio Revised Code Section 2907.06 (B) states, �No person shall be convicted of a violation of this section solely upon the victim�s testimony unsupported by other evidence.�
She said that, since many people don�t realize the weight of the burden of proof in this charge, they plead guilty when they stand a decent chance of fighting it successfully.
Neither of the charges would result in a person being added to the sexual offender database online, unless repeated arrests caused a judge to rule that someone was an habitual offender. While gross sexual imposition classifies someone as a sexual offender, sexual imposition does not.
The park was listed on at least two different web sites purporting to give the locations of public places where men could engage in sexual activity, including the restrooms of colleges, shopping malls and rest areas.
Both sites� listings for Buck Creek now also have warnings about the investigation and the arrests, which police said would continue throughout the season.
Passalacqua also noted that there are far worse dangers lurking in public parks for gay men than the threat of arrest on minor misdemeanors--gay bashings.
�There are a lot of gaybashers; it is personally threatening, as well as the threat of arrest,� she said.
In 1982, for instance, 25-year old Christopher Unick was found bludgeoned to death in the Rocky River Reservation near Cleveland. His murder is still unsolved.
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