Karine Jean-Pierre
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Men Arrested for Sex in 'Pleasure' Store Encounter Sympathetic Judge

The Pleasure Emporium

A judge has ruled that police shouldn’t have arrested men engaging in consensual sexual activity in private theaters at a Hollywood, Fla., adult-goods store that’s a popular gay cruising ground.

Broward County Judge Ginger Lerner Wren ruled today that the viewing theaters at the Pleasure Emporium are not a public place under Florida law. South Florida Gay News reports. The shop, which sells sex toys, costumes, and DVDs in addition to offering the private theaters, has been the site of stings by undercover police twice this year, resulting in the arrests of at least 19 men for sex in a public place, exposure of genitals, or engaging in what local law calls “unnatural lascivious acts.”

The undercover stings took place in February and July. After the July raid, many media outlets in the area featured mug shots of those arrested, and one TV station listed all the arrestees’ names and hometowns, the Miami New Times reports. One man was fired from his job as a result.

The Pleasure Emporium has two small theaters in the back of the shop, one designated “Straight” and the other “Gay,” according to South Florida Gay News. There are “several levels of barriers” to entry, Wren noted, including a $25 fee. The undercover officers reportedly paid the fees to enter the theaters. The men arrested in the raids were engaging in such activities as masturbation and consensual oral sex.

“The patrons who access the private viewing theaters where consensual sexual activity occurs in the presence of other consenting adults objectively and subjectively possess a reasonable expectation of privacy,” Wren wrote in her ruling.

She dismissed all the charges against two of the defendants. The fate of the others remains unclear, according to local media, but some of them have already pleaded guilty. Rhonda F. Gelfman, a lawyer who represented some of the accused men, said she would try to help those who’ve pleaded guilty get those pleas thrown out. The process is challenging, but it can be done, she said.

The Hollywood Police Department still contends it was justified in making the arrests, as parts of the Pleasure Emporium are open to the public, spokeswoman Miranda Grossman told the New Times. The Broward County State Attorney’s Office “felt there was sufficient basis to file charges,” she said. A spokesman for the State Attorney’s Office said prosecutors are now determining how to proceed in light of Wren’s ruling.

To many observers, the raids and the ensuing publicity were a throwback to a bygone, homophobic era. “Clearly, this was a private setting within a private setting — you would have to pay to get into it,” Abbie Cuellar, the attorney for the man who lost his job, told the New Times shortly after the July arrests. “It’s not in a residential neighborhood. There’s no danger a kid would ever walk past, even. The fact that they’ve been made out to be these sexual deviants, I feel like I’m back in the 1960s! I don’t understand the point of this arrest other than smearing and humiliating these men.”

Tags: Crime, Florida

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