The names of 16 men who were arrested in a known New York cruising area have been released to the media -- even though several of the cases had already been settled and sealed.
In May, the Westchester County Department of Public Safety mounted what has been called a sting operation in Saxon Woods, a county park in White Plains, New York, that resulted in the arrests of 16 men on charges of public lewdness or forcible touching.
Of those arrested, 10 of the men, aged 37 to 75, pleaded guilty to a lesser, nonsexual charge of disorderly conduct and had their cases sealed.
Last week, according to The New York Times, the county police released the names and photos of the 16 suspects in an attempt "to create a fear of being publicly shamed."
News organizations, writing about the so-called sting operation, published the details of the arrests, including the names of the suspects. The Westchester Journal News also published all 16 mug shots.
Among the men identified was Paul Dziuma, a building contractor who has been married for 31 years. He says he ventured into the park in August to dispose of trash and stopped to use the bathroom. Despite being initially charged with public lewdness, he ended up pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct on the advice of his lawyer.
"I never went near the guy," he said, in reference to the undercover officer who arrested him. "I'm devastated. It's hurt my family and put me in a terrible position."
Donald S. Mazin, an attorney who represents two of the men arrested in the bathroom, expressed his frustration at the county police for releasing the names. "What right does the public safety commissioner have to make a statement like that and ruin the lives of these people?" he asked. "Anybody can bring any charges they want, but that doesn't mean they actually did something. You can't undo the damage."
"Obviously, you're going to expose yourself if you go into the bathroom," Mazin added. "What are the police doing in there?"
On Wednesday, the Public Safety Department issued a statement blaming the White Plains City Court, where the cases had been settled. "The department was not notified by the court of the disposition of those cases or the issuance of seal orders, as is required by New York State criminal procedure law," said the statement.
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