San Jose Police Honey-Trap Gay Men, Sparking Civil Rights Fight

At Columbus Park, where San Jose decades ago cleared hundreds of homes beneath the municipal airport’s flight path, jets wing in low enough to rattle the signposts. By day, the poorly kempt 10-acre tract bustles with softball teams. Weekends bring beach volleyball players and horseshoe pitchers. Mostly, it’s left to the tent-dwellers who live among clustered trees and along the adjacent Guadalupe River.

The park’s dusk-through-dawn desertion gave rise to its reputation as a cruising spot. A bathroom on the western edge of the baseball diamond becomes, on occasion, a byplace for men who want to have sex with other men.

John Ferguson, a South County native in his mid-50s who knew of the park’s repute, says it seemed empty as usual when he stopped by one evening in May last year. But minutes after he latched the toilet stall, a man clad in shorts and a T-shirt ambled in to use the urinal. Ferguson spied a round cutout in the mottled black partition—a gloryhole, meant for soliciting sex—and, impulsively, slipped his forefinger through as an invitation.

The man on the other side stepped back, paused and then walked outside. Ferguson shrugged it off as polite rejection and got up to leave. But the stranger, idling by the door, struck up a conversation.

“How often do you come here?” the man asked, a coy smile parting his lips while telegraphing what Ferguson took for meaningful eye contact.

Ferguson puzzled over the mixed signals from this cute, much-younger stranger, but lingered to chat. Maybe they could exchange numbers or continue the repartee elsewhere, he recalls thinking, indulging a whit of naïve optimism.

A third man appeared minutes into the exchange. The sexual tension must have been palpable, Ferguson figured, because the newcomer stepped into the bathroom, dropped trou and began to masturbate.

Just then a fourth person arrived, brusquely introducing himself as Officer Adam Jenkins of the San Jose Police Department’s Downtown Services Unit. Ferguson’s breath quickened in panic. The guy he’d been flirting with—Officer Samuel Marquardt, as it turned out—whipped a badge out from under his shirt and broke the bad news.

The man who exposed himself was caught in the act and charged accordingly. But Ferguson’s alleged violation was one of intent.

Stunned, he agonized over how the ill-fated encounter would affect his career as a federal agricultural biologist. He’d taken an extended sabbatical to write a book—would the government hire him back with this kind of black mark on his record? Would he pass a background check for new work or housing? Would he have to register as a sex offender? How would he tell his family?

Shock turned to shame. Ferguson had spent decades coming to terms with his sexuality, which he considered a symptom of being molested as a child. For years, he endured evangelical Christian pray-the-gay-away therapy to cure his same-sex attraction. When that failed, he turned to drugs to suppress it.

Not until his early 40s—after sobriety untangled his innate self from trauma and addiction—did he finally come out of the closet. But on his half-hour drive home, that lifetime of hurt crashed back to the present.

Making a Case

Officer Marquardt cited Ferguson for a petty crime, but one freighted with controversy and historical import. Section 647(d) of the California penal code outlaws loitering in or around a public restroom for the purpose of engaging in a lewd or lascivious act. Police often couple it with 647(a), which makes it illegal to solicit or engage in lewd conduct in public. Because they’re classified as sex crimes, the punishments for code 647 arrests often go far beyond plea-bargained misdemeanor settlements of $1,000 fines or community service; they may require giving up Fourth Amendment rights or registering as a sex offender.

Although people of all orientations have sex in public in parked cars on lovers’ lanes and on streets, in parking lots or at the beach, 647 citations disproportionately upend the lives of men who seek out homosexual companionship. That SJPD apparently applied the former charge solely to gay men using male decoys to feign interest evokes a not-so-distant past of sanctioned oppression against anyone other than straight. It also puts the city at risk of federal litigation.

Bruce Nickerson, a 75-year-old attorney who spent half his life defending men against such allegations, plans to take the city of San Jose to task in a case that could culminate his storied career.

“A lot of gay rights attorneys turn up their noses at what I do,” says Nickerson, known by detractors and allies alike as the state’s pre-eminent “toilet lawyer.” “But there’s a reason I do these kinds of cases. Because worse than being fired because you’re gay is to be arrested for being gay. The most fundamental right is to be free of imprisonment.”

Famed “toilet lawyer” Bruce Nickerson has made a career out of defending gay men against charges of lewd conduct. (Photo by Greg Ramar)

Famed “toilet lawyer” Bruce Nickerson has made a career out of defending gay men against charges of lewd conduct. (Photo by Greg Ramar)

Gay rights advocates, who certainly don’t excuse public sex or boorish behavior, deride the stings as a form of entrapment. They object to the way police seem to unfairly fixate on gay men and go out of their way to elicit sexual interest by conveying spoken and nonverbal cues such as below-the-stall foot tapping or outright propositions. After decades of denouncing gay cruising stings, critics have made some headway in recent years as the public grows more supportive of LGBT rights.

Police in Mountain View and San Leandro stopped undercover 647 crackdowns after a series of lawsuits over the years pegged them as unconstitutional. So did Palo Alto and Sunnyvale. “We do not conduct these stings, nor, to my knowledge, have we ever in my 18-year career,” Palo Alto police spokesman Lt. Zach Perron tells Metro. The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office rarely sees the charge, having prosecuted only 33 cases for 647(d) in the past decade—24 of them, however, since SJPD doubled down on the toilet busts in 2013.

In April, a Los Angeles County judge chucked identical charges in a closely watched case against one of Nickerson’s clients from Long Beach. Not two months later, he heard about a similar dismissal in San Jose, where he defended his first client against the same allegations 35 years ago. Since his inaugural case, cities throughout the nation have all but ended gay cruising stings after so many acquittals, big-money lawsuits and the resulting public backlash. To hear that the 10th largest American city revived the practice as recently as 2015 came as a shock.

“Outrageous,” Nickerson says. “There was a general understanding that they wouldn’t continue this.”

San Jose police and prosecutors that argued the cases deny claims of prejudice. SJPD spokesman Sgt. Enrique Garcia objects to even calling the operations “stings” because no overtime was used and the officers work their shifts in plainclothes anyway. Each one, he says, came in response to complaints from the public. SJPD has since suspended the practice, though Garcia says it may resume if the need arises.

“We had a judge render a decision that the arrests were invalid, but that’s not unusual,” Garcia says. “We have cases heard in court every day—some get adjudicated, others get thrown out. This wasn’t what we call a case law or precedent. We are still going to respond to criminal activity as best we can. We are obligated to respond.”

To LGBT advocates, however, the tactics bear troubling traces of recent history, when police raided gay bars and private bedrooms and publicly circulated mugshots of people arrested for the “perversion” of homosexuality. All too often, the accused would lose their jobs, homes, families and their will to live.

Historic persecution and the stigma associated with gay bars or bathhouses rendered public park cruising into a something of a subculture, says Attila Szatmari, spokesman for a gay male hookup app called Squirt. Men who cruise at public parks tend to lead double lives. They’re often older men unfamiliar with mobile apps, or they came out later in life and feel out of place in the younger gay dating scene.

Divorced from cultural context, a misdemeanor seems trifling. But it shows how enforcing laws without a nuanced understanding of why they were created and how case law subsequently reshaped them can erode trust between police and marginalized communities. For example, U.S. Justice Department statistics show that police disproportionately target African-American men for driving infractions. A petty crime, but one that inspires a very real fear because of a mounting number of high-profile cases in which police shoot unarmed black men during routine traffic stops.

Gay, lesbian, transgender and otherwise queer people have their own strained relationship with law enforcement. Queer youth remain some of the most vulnerable, according to a 2015 survey by the Urban Research Institute, which found that 70 percent of LGBT runaways had been arrested at least once. Generations of gay Americans grew up viewing police as a source of fear, not protection, according to Brian Sharp, an openly gay veteran cop who consults with police agencies on how sexual orientation figures into into criminal justice reform. California’s 647 violations resemble a charge that galvanized one of the most important figures in American LGBT history 60 years ago.

The late Franklin Kameny, a WWII veteran with a doctorate from Harvard University, may well have served a distinguished career as an astronomer in the Army Map Service had his sexual orientation remained secret. But this was during the “Lavender Scare,” the mass firings of gay and lesbian federal employees by an executive order of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Kameny lasted five months. The government canned him once it found out that the “morals squad” arrested him as a “sexual pervert” across from the White House in Lafayette Park, a gay cruising ground.

More than a decade before the Stonewall riots in New York, Kameny turned his 1957 arrest into the spark that ignited the nation’s gay civil rights movement. By litigating against his termination, he became a powerful force in confuting the notion of homosexuality as a perversion and the laws based on that premise.

The generations to follow saw state after state decriminalize sodomy. Meanwhile, beginning in the 1960s, the United States Supreme Court repeatedly affirmed a right to privacy that prevents the government from meddling with people’s consensual sex lives. Only in the past few years has the nation legalized same-sex marriage, lifted a ban on openly gay military members and made greater efforts to dismantle lingering dregs of systemic bigotry.

Now, just as the Orlando massacre intensifies national concern over gay rights, San Jose stands to become an example of how institutional discrimination persists in picayune laws and oblivious bias.

War for the Soul

Nickerson turned the old saw about a man’s home being his castle into reality. When he bought his San Carlos abode in the 1970s, he added a third story, poured his own concrete balusters, installed a faux-stone facade and narrow stained-glass windows to model it after a castle in Germany.

“My poor man’s Hearst Castle,” he says, allowing a moment’s pause to admire his handiwork before heading inside.

Bruce Nickerson outside his castle-style San Carlos home. (Photo by Jennifer Wadsworth)

Bruce Nickerson outside his San Carlos home. (Photo by Jennifer Wadsworth)

Most days Nickerson and his room-renting tenants use the kitchen door, but first-time visitors get escorted through the front entrance to witness the spectacle of the main room. Every nook in the cathedral-ceilinged lobby has been lovingly filled with mementos of his travels, hobbies and life’s work. A model train track winds its way around the perimeter of the room and a bridge connects two landings overhead. Photos of his journeys to Nordic glaciers and Gothic castles represent checks on his 200-point bucket list, which he’s 10 away from completing. The most beautiful view on the planet, he says, lies only a few hours away in Yosemite.

One wall is taken up by a two-story pipe organ, which plays his impassioned melodies in mighty bursts through speakers inlaid in the ceiling. On Sundays, he plays a much smaller organ at the local Episcopalian church, his shelter dog Sheba frequently flopped beside him on the floor. Every so often, he invites his two ex-wives, ex-boyfriends, their partners and other friends and family to his castle’s front room for a classical recital. Second to law, he calls music his greatest passion.

Before he summoned the strength to live on his own terms, Nickerson channeled his energies into conforming to the heteronormative expectations of the people around him. His father was a former Golden Gloves boxer and atheist who distrusted anything unseen, and his mother a Pentecostal minister with unwavering spirituality.

“Together,” he says with his signature aplomb, “they warred for my soul.”

When Nickerson reached the age of 5, they somehow began to intuit homosexual tendencies. His father determined to beat it out of him for a host of trivial reasons, he says. His mother, on her part, prayed the blood of Jesus over him to protect him from menaces outside, but offered no defense against “the monster down the hall.” Nickerson tried to live as a straight man at community college and Stanford University. In his twenties, he married a woman who had his son and another who became his second wife.

“I gave it a valiant effort,” he says from his second-story home law office, where heaps of binders, court records and books fill virtually every square inch. “I was fortunate enough that the woman I married was one for the ages. Together, we set about raising our son, who’s the son of any man’s dreams.”

After his second divorce, and in the throes of depression, he says he had an epiphany. With two failed marriages, a defunct business, a conflicted identity and having done little with his Stanford degree, he realized that God loved all of him anyway.

“I had been living life with wings strapped to my sides, and suddenly I could use them,” Nickerson says. “We’re in 1975 now, in the midst of the gay rights movement, and I’m finally an openly proud gay man who starts thinking, ‘How do I make this into a career?’ Well, if you really want to affect change, I realized, you should become a lawyer.”

At 39 years old, he took his first case, representing a man who had been arrested in San Jose at an adult bookstore called Circus. An undercover officer peered into a porn booth at the private business, saw the man masturbating and arrested him for lewd conduct. When Nickerson cited the 1979 case law about intent to offend, the prosecutor scoffed at the defense as pointless because these cases inevitably get settled anyway. This time, however, the trial ended with a hung jury—short of a triumph, but heartening to civil rights attorneys watching the case.

“We realized that we could actually start winning these,” Nickerson says. “So I focused on this type of case because these people were innocent. They weren’t a menace … so acquitting them wouldn’t cause damage to the public. Plus, I thought these stings were a waste of resources.”

Only one of the 10,000 police reports he says he’s read on lewd conduct arrests of gay men involved a child wandering into a bathroom and witnessing an erotic dalliance. That, Nickerson agrees, was a valid arrest. He says the rest almost invariably involved mere verbal intent, sex in enclosed spaces, or performed without intent to offend.

Over the course of three-and-a-half decades, Nickerson has made new case law five times. He has brought juries to the scenes of so-called crimes in public bathrooms in some cases and brought replica porn booths to the courtroom in others to illustrate how arresting officers would have to go out of their way to see anyone wanking off. He has cleared the records of gay men who lost their jobs, families and friends over lewd conduct arrests. He has defended his practice before the powers that be in the California State Bar, which suspended his law license in the 1990s, and against the cultural establishment by way of a sputtering Bill O’Reilly, who cut his mic on national TV.

“Here I am, 75 years old,” he says. “I have congestive heart failure, so I have to sit down in front of the judge. They’re quite gracious to let me do that. I thought about retiring, but … there’s more work cut out for me.”

‘Something Bigger’

Without any direct involvement in Ferguson’s case, Nickerson helped clear his name and that of many others with a courtroom victory decades ago. In 1996, he landed a six-figure judgment with a unanimous decision from the California Supreme Court that Mountain View police unlawfully singled out gay men in lewd conduct arrests.

Over two years in the early 1990s, undercover Mountain View cops flirtatiously lured gay men to a car. Once in the open, the officers would cite the men for soliciting a lewd act in public. Nickerson defended 10 men who fell for the honeytrap. His Baluyut v. Superior Court win established discriminatory prosecution as a defense to exactly the type of operation that ensnared Ferguson.

A state Supreme Court case 17 years before Baluyut set the foundation for Nickerson’s victory. In Pryor v. Municipal Court, jury instructions held that lewd conduct only rises to the level of a crime if performed with the intent to offend.

“That’s been the law since 1979,” he says. “Police don’t know or don’t want to hear that, but by their very nature these stings are invalid. A required element of conviction is that the guy must know, or should reasonably know, that someone would be offended. Second, they would have to enforce the law equally to men and women. Only using a male decoy, that’s strike one. Strike number two is that they’re only pursuing men. They’re double-damned.”

Most of the Columbus Park arrests involved no exposure at all. Ferguson was one of 19 gay men SJPD cited for the same lewd conduct misdemeanor over a 17-month period from 2014 to the end of last year.

In 18 of those cases, Officer Marquardt made the arrest. By his own accounts, he almost always made the first move.

A few months after Ferguson’s arrest, Daniel Bufano says he rushed into the Columbus Park bathroom to blow his nose. Like Ferguson, he knew of the park’s reputation.

But no one was there that night of Aug. 8, 2015, he says. On his way out, Bufano says, a handsome sandy blond stranger—Officer Marquardt, he later learned—approached him.

“What kind of stuff do you get into?” the cop asked, in his report of the incident.

“I’m pretty open,” Bufano replied, according to the same report.

Officer Marquardt asked if he wanted to perform oral sex in the bathroom. Bufano replied that there are “a lot more places we could go if you wanna get your dick sucked,” according to police, who say he then suggested hooking up by the nearby bleachers. As he walked in that direction, police say they called their bluff and wrote him a ticket.

Officer Marquardt's account of Daniel Bufano's arrest.

Officer Marquardt's account of Daniel Bufano's arrest. Source: Santa Clara County Superior Court

In Bufano’s telling, he was much less receptive to the cop’s advances. And after the citation, he says, they illegally searched him and left him physically bruised and emotionally shaken. His friend, a closeted gay man who witnessed the ordeal from the parked car, was terrified.

“I didn’t approach him, I never said hello to him or nothing,” says Bufano, 51, an East Coast transplant who says he moved to the Bay Area more than two decades ago after being hit with similar citations in his hometown of Richmond, Virginia. “The officer, he’s the one who came up to me and all these other men, saying hi and flirting. Isn’t that entrapment? How is that not entrapment?”

Seeing the resulting charge leveled against him raised many more questions. How could a conversation rise to the level of criminal conduct? And if it does, why do straight people get a pass? Would police send an attractive female decoy to offer free consensual sex to straight men? Why send decoys at all instead of a uniformed cop?

After months of arrests by the same officer at the same squalid bathroom, lawyers in the Public Defender’s Office began asking some of the same questions. Andrea Randisi, an attorney assigned to research duty, spotted a pattern in the accused: all were gay men.

“Once we connected the dots, we went around the office asking if anyone else had a loitering case like this,” says deputy public defender Carlie Ware, who ran with Randisi’s insight to combine and reframe the cases as a civil rights issue. “What we noticed was that these cases in the year-and-a-half period we looked at were nearly identical. At that point, we knew this was something bigger.”

Thirteen of those defendants took a plea deal to put the embarrassment behind them, agreeing to perform 40 hours of community service, submit to HIV tests and stay away from Columbus Park for six months. The remaining six, including Ferguson, emboldened by Ware’s belief in their innocence, went to trial.

In an affidavit, Clay Morgan Parks recounts his arrest.

In an affidavit, Clay Morgan Parks recounts his arrest.

Ware cited the Baluyut ruling to argue that police violated the constitutional right to equal protection because the arrests exclusively targeted gay men. It took nearly a year—an extraordinary amount of time for a misdemeanor case—before a judge tossed the charges last month.

“For me, this case touched on issues of discrimination based on identity,” Ware says. “If a person is singled out by virtue of who they are, whether they’re a black man or a gay man or something else, that’s unconstitutional.”

With a shortage of officers and increasing crime, SJPD should focus its resources on more pressing problems like violent crimes, says Clay Parks, a 58-year-old hairstylist Marquardt arrested in January of 2015. Three police were involved, and for what?

“I was accused of a crime because of things I said to another consenting adult in a public place,” Parks wrote in an affidavit for Ware’s motion to dismiss the charges. “This accusation makes me feel less comfortable now expressing myself in public, especially about my sexual preference. I feel silenced.”

Cruise Control

In a June 17 ruling, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Jose S. Franco slammed the SJPD’s singular focus on gay men at Columbus Park. Prosecutor Judith Sklar insisted that the operations stemmed from complaints about men loitering around the bathrooms with lustful intent. But the judge pointed out that a review of citizen calls turned up scant mention of public sex and that 13 of the 19 arrests happened after 8pm, when no families would be at the park.

“By conducting themselves in a way that mimics ‘cruising’ behavior of the suspects targeted, the undercover officers demonstrated the intent to target this group to the exclusion of other perpetrators of lewd conduct,” the judge wrote. Later, he added: “Unpopular groups have too often been made to bear the brunt of discriminatory prosecution or selective enforcement. The unconstitutional selective enforcement of the law as seen in the cases before this court undermine the credibility of our legal system and risks eroding public confidence in our ability to achieve just results."

The following week, Nickerson called Ware to congratulate her on the win. Hearing from the man behind the Baluyut decision, which she relied on to clinch the case, brought her to tears. “He laid the path for me,” says Ware, 37, whose biracial parents raised her as a child of the civil rights movement. “To learn from him without even meeting in person speaks to the importance of his work. It felt good to carry on that legacy.”

Prosecutors had until July 17 to appeal Judge Franco’s decision, but let it pass. The next order of business for Nickerson is to secure findings of factual innocence for each of the men acquitted, which will wipe the arrests from the record as though they never happened. Then, as in Long Beach, he says he will file a class-action lawsuit against San Jose police to vindicate Ferguson, Bufano and the others.

Though Nickerson’s heart condition may force him to physically sit through the planned proceedings, it would mark his final stand in the same city where it all started.

John Ferguson, one of several gay men acquitted in a sex-crimes case, plans to sue San Jose police for discriminatory enforcement. (Photo by Jennifer Wadsworth)

John Ferguson, one of several gay men acquitted in  June, plans to sue SJPD for discriminatory enforcement. (Photo by Jennifer Wadsworth)

Jennifer Wadsworth is a staff writer for San Jose Inside and Metro Newspaper. Email tips to [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

46 Comments

  1. So I guess the point of this story is how incredibly unfair it is that these guys are not allowed to freely have sex in public restrooms? Really? If there were a public restroom in San Jose where heterosexuals were routinely meeting to engage in anonymous sex, the police would respond in the same way…but there isn’t. What’s being targeted here is sex in public restrooms, which is something that seems to interest a small segment of the gay community. If you want to believe that these men all just happened to coincidentally wander by the same restroom, go right ahead. I, however, choose to live in the real world.

    • Sometimes people deserve to be punished for their stupidity. Gay or straight sex, in this world of tinder and other hookup apps, there’s no reason for anyone to be soliciting anonymous sex in a bathroom.

      • There’s a reason… in fact, several, but our problem in understanding them is they involve the kind of self-absorbed impulse gratification that, though common to drunks and the mentally ill, has been socialized out of well-adjusted heterosexual and homosexual men.

        They need society to penalize them into self-discipline, not provide them carte blanche.

      • GJ,

        Who mentioned sex in cars? You replied to a comment with this:

        What’s being targeted here is sex in public restrooms

        The operative word is “public”. This (L-O-N-G) article/apologia cites California law:

        California penal code outlaws loitering in or around a public restroom for the purpose of engaging in a lewd or lascivious act.

        In or around a “public restroom”, see? There’s nothing mentioned about cars. But the guy admitted he knew what sticking his finger through the hole in the restroom wall meant.

        I could not care less what anyone does in private. I have plenty of sympathy for gays, because they were born that way. It wasn’t their choice. IMHO, anyway.

        But a small contingent of the gay community seriously damaged your cause when my wife and I, with our 10-year old son were in a mall, and walked past several guys with no shirts on who were on some sort of stand, kissing in public. And I mean *kissing*: The kind of passionate kissing you’d see in a steamy scene in an R- or X-rated movie.

        I suspect most straight folks these days disagree with discrimination against gays — for their sexual orientation. But by the same token, the straight community doesn’t want that orientation shoved in everyone’s face in public, whether it’s in a mall or a public restroom.

        No matter if it’s straight or gay, public sex is not appropriate. Parents wouldn’t want their kids seeing hetero couples doing the same thing, either. The “anything goes” mantra has caused far more problems in society than any problems it solves.

        So no, we shouldn’t arrest folks for having sex in their car. But that’s deflection from the article’s point, which is moot anyway. As it turns out, the whole thing was a tempest in a teapot: the cruiser won his battle. And he should thank the prosecutor for dropping any further action, because dropping it cost the prosecutor, whose won/lost record just took a hit.

        Finally, the author or anyone else will get push-back if they try to argue that it’s A-OK to use public restrooms for having sex. And THAT is the central issue here. Our taxes didn’t go to pay for extraneous, non-essential uses; public restrooms are built and maintained for one specific reason.

        Have some respect for the majority’s point of view here — you’re both lucky you’re in America, and not in Saudi Arabia or Iran… Amirite?

  2. On the subject of queer enforcement practices, I’ve just discovered that dog owners are cited for leash law violations at a troublingly disproportionate rate. Either the cops start citing cat owners at the same rate or I’ll find some halfwit judge to put a stop to all leash law enforcement.

  3. Can you imagine Jennifer hanging out at a remote public restroom waiting to meet some guy to have sex with?
    Oh yes that’s called prostitution and the cops will bust you for that too, not to mention what you might catch!

      • So hedrosextual freebes are OK in a public restroom? I think you’re maybe gonna get busted for a lewd act.
        What we are missing here is that’s not happening as often, although I knew this couple got caught in a dumpster………….yes they got busted too!

        • Empty Gun: That’s the point. The cops don’t send out female decoys looking for males to solicit them for free sex in bathrooms. If they did, you would cry foul!!! “But she was so attractive.” See? They spend all that taxpayer money enticing gay men. Sure, they might catch straights doing it once in a blue moon. But it’s not because they were using decoys. Got it now?

          • But they do, keep catching teacher, politicians, and other cops. Everyone is happy when they get caught.
            Internet porn sting and under age soliciting, hidden cameras.
            Gays just want special treatment, like the Clintons.
            I get it don’t you?

  4. I cannot believe the trash I just read! If I walk into a bathroom with my child and two guy are going at it in the stall or through a glory hole Im gonna crack some heads. These crazy radical left wing hacks are determined to destroy every last fiber of this country. SJI always seems to sink even lower. I am totally disgusted.

    • Wow! Did you really just write that whole silly diatribe THERELIABLEINFORMER?
      First off “cracking heads” is called aggravated assault and in this case a hate crime. Respond to illegal behavior with illegal behavior is antithetical to the basic tenets of a republic.
      Second this is not about the guy masturbating this is about a) a cop coming chatting up a guy then arresting him and b) not arresting the many prostitutes who line the streets of SJ and give BJ’s in parked cars.
      “Crazy radical leftwing hacks” – “destroying the last fiber or this country” – right out of Putin/Trump playbook!!!
      Got any thing sane to say?

      • Is this the best a $90,000 a year cop can do sneaking into a public restroom and or an park soliciting another guy for sex no lewd conduct seen or taking place just an interested comment made by a hard up to make a bust cop to justify his pay check

    • So is the Superior Court judge a “crazy left wing hack”?
      How exactly are these folks destroying the fiber of our country?
      What precisely in your life has been negatively changed by lawyers standing up to police stings?
      Do tell because “destroying the very fiber” sounds like we’re on the edge of the death of our entire Republic.

      • You are a complete idiot. Butt hurt much. You have intimate knowledge or involved in these cases? This country is going down the sh*tter because of attitudes like yours. Its a PUBLIC bathroom. What part do you not understand that grown men shouldnt be corn holing each other where kids play. Ya that kinda behavior is a breakdown of our country and standards. But then again maybe you are one of those “open arms” types that welcome everyone and we just need to conform. Obviously you are with Hillary! Clown

      • GJ

        While I am liberal in some regard to social mores, I am disgusted and revolted by anyone using a public restroom to solicit, and then engage in, sex. It is irrelevant that these people are gay. The entire defense of the person caught soliciting is that he is gay, and was treated unfairly. Would anyone argue that a married man, caught in the same restroom would be labelled a sex offender, be publicly embarrassed, probably lose his marriage, pay child support for his 1.5 kids, pay alimony for the rest of his life, lose his job or any chance of promotion, and be subjected to ridicule on the public pillory?
        Fairness is a matter of opinion. The penalty the subject in this story paid was no where near the possible damages done to a heterosexual, married man with children. why should his punishment be any different? Isnt the crime the same?
        While I am open to the subject of equality, lets face facts….shall we?
        The gay community is generally interested in equality…but who the heck would want to be subjected to the risks and penalties noted above? What some in the gay community seem to be interested in, is the right to have all of the same “perks and privileges” they perceive heterosexuals as having, with none of the risks or responsibilities that come with it. This is NOT equality, its the antithesis of equality.

  5. What a bunch of homophobes you all are. Your bleatings say more about you than they do about closeted gay men meeting for consensual sex. Your attitudes are one of the main reasons these men must find alternate autonomous zones for intimate contact. I’d love to know where Marquardt goes for his own.

    • What Peter Stanislaw casually refers to as “consensual sex” is in practice a range of sexual behavior that runs from the discreet to the reckless and repulsive. Remember, it wasn’t the public’s moral objections to homosexual acts (involving participants in and out of the closet) that closed San Francisco’s bath houses, it was the widespread, deadly infection brought about by the patrons’ no-holds-barred brand of debauchery.

      The restroom cruisers of the homosexual community deserve neither the public’s trust or tolerance. They’ve been long out of the closet when it comes to their childish impulsiveness and disgusting sexual behavior, and it doesn’t belong in our parks and roadside rest stops. If the revolting ambience is so important to this community of twisted souls, there’s nothing stopping them from building their own restrooms — on their own property.

    • Peter S wrote: “Your bleatings say more about you than they do about closeted gay men meeting for consensual sex. ” It seems to me that CLOSETED gay men would rather have sex in private (like a motel or apartment) than in a PUBLIC place where they could be caught, and therefore outed involuntarily.
      ” Your attitudes are one of the main reasons these men must find alternate autonomous zones for intimate contact. ” No, they can go home or to a motel, Peter. No kid should have to walk into a public restroom and come upon anyone having sex–gay or straight.

  6. SJPD is seriously understaffed, yet they have added a pecker posse squad, diverting resources that would otherwise be used to fight real crime, like residential burglaries, rapes, batteries, gang suppression. Not the best use of limited resources. So, do the cops on the pecker posse volunteer for that duty? Who trains them in the wiles of enticing a guy to go at it with them in a public restroom?
    And for you gay guys–if you want to suck or be sucked, cornhole or be cornholed, just get a room, OK; or go to one of the gay bars on nearby Stockton Avenue and use their bathroom; or if you’re too cheap, take the guy home. Kids playing baseball on the adjacent diamond shouldn’t have to walk in on you and your latest popsicle of the week going at it. Leave park restrooms for the guys who just want to take a leak or a dump.

  7. In principle, agree with JMO that our understaffed SJPD have more important responsibilities. Yet I can understand the reaction to illegal conduct, an unwelcome solicitation, or having one’s children witness it. Objecting does not imply homophobia any more than complaining about N. First St prostitutes makes one heterophobic.

    Other aspects were disturbing. I recalled an item in the Merc that attorney Bruce Nickerson was suspended. I believe it was for theft. Yup – Nickerson’s been repeatedly sanctioned and suspended – see http://members.calbar.ca.gov/fal/Member/Detail/90760 Nickerson’s hardly the choirboy valiantly fighting for his oppressed clients that SJI would have us believe. Sloppy to omit this aspect, SJI.

    The determination that “police violated the constitutional right to equal protection because the arrests exclusively targeted gay men” intrigued me and asked a lesbian friend about women’s habits. She assured me that lesbians don’t cruise restrooms. She added that women prefer intimacy and affection (something straight male readers have probably experienced) and not quick, anonymous sex.

    Restroom cruising is virtually an exclusively male activity so of course gay men will be ‘targeted’.

    Don’t know if prosecutor Judith Sklar raised this point. But if so, it seems astounding that Judge Franco would “slam the SJPD’s singular focus on gay men at Columbus Park.

    Straight, out,and closeted gay men have ample means to hook-up without violating public indecency laws. AFAIK, gay men have more venues (adult bookstores and a bathhouse) than straight men in San Jose. And of course there are abundant online resources for both.

  8. The glory hole crowd along with their lawyers really are making a showing on this Wadsworth gem. Some panties have gotten pretty wadded up here….

  9. I was surprised to read that SJPD was using well-known discriminatory practices to entrap gay men – especially since those practices are routinely thrown out of court and therefore a waste of time and money (although traumatic for those arrested.)
    But I was truly shocked by the homophobic commenters who seem to approve of these tactics.

    There are number of effective strategies other communities use to discourage public sexual encounters in known cruising spots. I can’t understand why a progressive community like San Jose is instead using discredited honey-trapping.

    • What effective strategy does the government employ to prevent someone who doesn’t like you from punching you in the face? Answer: the legislature made assault and battery a punishable offense and authorized police officers to enforce it. There are no other strategies used, yet such acts are relatively rare. Are you telling us that homosexuals are incapable of responding to laws, or are you doing what all liberals do, and simply demanding special treatment for groups you favor?

      By the way, you seem to shock pretty easily. Better not ever look at what some of these sick bastards do in toilet stalls.

      • More lighting? Trim the vegetation? Restricted hours of availability? (Most of the incidents happened after 8 pm.) Entrapment is just a bad tactic. Very wasteful of limited resources. I don’t excuse breaking the law, but I want the SJPD available for much more serious threats to public safety.

        • You never know what that cop might be saving you from, there could be a serial head cutter on the other side of that glory hole……………..

  10. The studies on who is having sex in bathrooms indicate many straight men are involved. The reasons cited are convenience, anonymity (I am not gay just looking for sex), & not getting any or enough at home.
    When you understand how gay men grow up, you might understand why a public bathroom is used for sex. When you look at the diverse male population with many men from religious backgrounds that are gay negative, you might understand why a public bathroom is used for sex. When gay men can be themselves without fear of violence, & societal disapproval, you will see less public bathroom sexuality. Some of the comments indicate that public safety for gay men is still a dream.

    • This is the Bay Area in 2016. Homosexuality has gained widespread acceptance. Gay men and women enjoy the same legal rights as everyone else. The patrons of the gay clubs downtown come and go without any problems, easily mingling with the straight crowd. This is all as it should be, and I applaud it. So please spare us all your weak argument that a public restroom is the only place where gay men can be themselves. I don’t think anyone is buying it.

    • In other words it’s all George Bush’s fault.
      If they are having voluntarily sex with other men they are not straight, but they might be really cheap dates that aren’t getting any. I think not!
      So find an ugly woman and taker her home!

    • Experience has taught me that publicized “studies” provide the least reliable information about human behavior, not because responsible research is without value but because partiality – of the progressive, culturally-destructive type, is rampant within the behavioral sciences. Mr. Corbin’s post offers a prime example, one in which the accepted definition of being sexually “straight” is perverted by researchers to include men who opt to seek out and engage in homosexual sex, a definition otherwise unrecognized by the public. This is not legitimate behavioral study, it’s the hijacking of language.

      Mr. Corbin wants us to understand how gay men grow up. Really? From where might one acquire that information? From a study? From a gay man? It would seem to me that understanding how gay men grow up is as impossible a task as understanding how tall men or Asian men or smart men grow up. There is no homogeneous experience, so there can be no comprehensive understanding.

      One thing we can all understand is that we’ve grown up in a society of laws, customs, and public decency. Men attracted to 10 year-old girls know they can either control themselves or go to jail. Same with hot tempered men, racists, and swindlers. Is the attraction of public restroom sex, an urge known only to some gay men, deserving of a special level of tolerance? Or is it society’s obligation to treat this uniquely homosexual compulsion as it treats all other undesirable compulsions? Shouldn’t authorities practice fairness regardless of sexual persuasion and simply follow the law of the land?

    • “When gay men can be themselves without fear of violence, & societal disapproval, you will see less public bathroom sexuality.” There’s some pretzel logic. So, gay men are less likely to get the crap beat out of them if they have sex in a public bathroom than if they had sex at home or in a motel?

  11. Must be a lot of domestic violence going on in gay household if I follow that logic, maybe there partners are beating them up when the cheat?

  12. Bruce Nickerson is right. He’s always been right. The California Supreme Court and various courts of appeal and federal courts agree, the man is right. Why is he right? Because its wrong to discriminate against people for being gay. Sting operations that focus on gay behavior happen every day. Where are the sting operations that focus on straight behavior? There are none? Is that because straights don’t cruise and make out in and around parks and restrooms? Come on. You people know the truth. It’s right in front of your eyes. Discriminatory law enforcement against gays is, as Nickerson calls it: “The Gay Jim Crow” If it weren’t for men like Nickerson. Men of courage no less than that of soldiers who go into battle (Who but a courageous lawyer would really want to be branded as the premiere lawyer for such an unpopular but just cause?), this injustice would have infected the 21st century just as it did the 20th. Kudos to Bruce Nickerson.

    • “Where are the sting operations that focus on straight behavior?”

      Have you never heard of a John Decoy, where female police officers take to targeted areas in street clothes in order to bust straight males for trying to buy sex? This enforcement tactic, often initiated in response to citizen complaints, is intended to convey the message to straight males that such behavior will not be tolerated on city streets. In this, it is very much like the sting operations about which you complain. Your entire argument is bogus and patently perverted.

  13. I’m bisexual and I have no sympathy about this. Same thing happens with straight men and prostitutes ALL THE TIME!!