Councilman demands apology for unconstitutional arrests of gay men

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Department, and thus our city, is grabbing national attention over the arrests of gay men using a law that is unconstitutional.

A Metro Councilman and others in the community demanded an apology from the Sheriff himself.

Sheriff Sid Gautreaux released an apology through the media. Click here to read the full apology.

The District Attorney has stepped in to make sure the men who wear the badge know the law.

BREC's Manchac Park off Old Jefferson Highway is a popular hangout for children and athletes, but it's also been a hot spot for numerous arrests over the years; a lot of them involving men arrested for lewd, sexual behavior during various law enforcement stings.

While some of the men in a 1999 sting were caught in the act of having sex in the park, other gay men claim they were "set up" by undercover deputies.

They say they said "yes" to sex, but agreed to have it elsewhere at a private residence, but were still arrested.

If that is the case, deputies wrongly arrested the men because no laws were broken.

East Baton Rouge Metro Councilman John Delgado is outraged.

"I think the Sheriff took a certain policy of harassing a certain segment of our population and put it into practice," said Delgado.

Louisiana's crime against nature laws bans "the unnatural carnal copulation by a human being with another of the same sex or opposite sex." But that was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court 10 years ago.

19th Judicial District Attorney Hillar Moore says he knows of at least 10 cases in the last two years involving men who were arrested and charged with "attempted crimes against nature." But he says they were never prosecuted because no laws were broken and no money was exchanged.

"It's the money that makes the act illegal not the actual sex act itself it's the exchange of money or attempt to exchange money;" said Moore, "or agreeing to exchange money for sex."

"For the Sheriff to continue to do that after the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th guy... You have not committed no crime we're not going to charge you with anything. I think it's disingenuous of the Sheriff to say we didn't know what the law was when none of the people being brought to the DA's office is being charged with any crime," said Delgado.

Sheriff Sid Gautreaux released a statement saying "the deputies in the cases were acting in good faith using a statute that was still on the books of the Louisiana Criminal Code."

Gautreaux did not realize the law had been struck down. He also acknowledged "we need to work with our deputies to provide them with better resources and training to deal with these issues in more appropriate ways.:

Councilman Delgado says it's a good start, but he thinks the Sheriff and his deputies need to do more.

"They need to apologize to the people, who were falsely arrested, apologize to the parish at large for the way this has made us look in the national news. And I think the officers involved need some sort of sensitivity training or some awareness of what the law is," said Delgado.

The American Civil Liberties Union released a statement Monday that says in part "the men who have been arrested should have had the protection, not the prosecution, of their law enforcement officials, and Sheriff Sid Gautreaux must educate his staff on the proper role of law enforcement in a free society.

Click here to read the ACLU statement.

District Attorney Moore said that he met with the Sheriff Monday afternoon to discuss the law and that the deputies will be made aware of what is enforceable and what is not.

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