A police officer who was involved in a 2009 Palm Springs sex sting used
a gay slur, according to testimony from a witness who viewed a
surveillance tape of the incident.
The slur may suggest police officers' motive to condemn gay men in the sting, instead of focusing on other types of crime in the area, according to defense attorney Bruce Nickerson.
According to The Desert Sun, complaints about drugs, prostitution, and lewd sex acts sent police to the Warm Sands neighborhood. Nickerson, however, believes the defendants may have been targeted specifically because of their sexual orientation and coerced into situations that resulted in the worst possible punishment.
Most of the men were encouraged by undercover cops to expose themselves after they could have already been arrested for lesser offenses, Nickerson says in the article. He called the incident one of the most "vicious" sting operations he's ever seen as a specialist in sting operations law.
Riverside County chief deputy district attorney Dianna Carter says the gay slur could have been aimed at anyone, despite sexual orientation.
Police officials believe the men should be charged with the harshest punishments possible to deter sex acts in the area, which they feel are not resolved with lesser punishments.
If charged under the California Penal Code 314, the 24 men arrested could face misdemeanor charges and would be registered as sex offenders on a list made available only to law enforcement officers.