Lawsuit In Tenn. Public Sex Sting Case
Lambda Legal has filed a federal lawsuit against the police department of Johnson City, Tennessee and its chief of police for releasing the photos of 40 men arrested in a sex sting in a public park. The suit was filed on behalf of Kenneth Giles, a nurse who was fired from his job after his picture appeared in the local paper.
"In America, the police do not get to add an extra punishment to people they don't like," said Greg Nevins, Supervising Senior Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal's Southern Regional Office based in Atlanta. "They also do not get to ignore the principle of innocent until proven guilty. The JCPD went out of its way to humiliate Mr. Giles and caused irreparable damage."Shortly after his photo was published, a 55 year-old man committed suicide.
On October 1, 2007 the JCPD issued a press release, personally approved by the police chief, that included photos that were taken at the scene where 40 men, including Mr. Giles, were arrested in a public sex sting. The local news ran the story prominently along with the pictures and addresses of the men involved. Lambda Legal reviewed the police department's press releases for over a period of a year and found that out of approximately 600 other releases, none pertaining to arrests was accompanied by photos or personally approved by the chief. Of the 40 arrested, one man has committed suicide, and several others have lost their jobs, including Kenneth Giles, who was fired from his job as a nurse at the VA hospital.
"I don't understand how the police department can release photos of one group and not any others," said Kenneth Giles. "I lost my livelihood because my arrest was treated differently."
Lambda Legal argues that the JCPD violated federal equal protection law by singling out these men for harsher treatment by making their images available to the media. Indeed, the actions of the JCPD are the latest in a long history of the police going beyond legitimate law enforcement measures to take extraordinary action designed to target gay men for humiliation and harassment.
PREVIOUSLY ON JMG: Stinging Shame.