ACLU: SC sheriff's dept. arresting people for legal sex
GREENVILLE, SC (WYFF) - The South Carolina chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is accusing the Greenville County Sheriff's Office routinely making unlawful arrests of women they suspect of being prostitutes and men who have sex with men, even though they haven't broken any laws.
The ACLU says it sent a letter to the Greenville County Sheriff's Office and the State Solicitor's Office on Wednesday demanding that "the local police department stop violating the constitutional rights of innocent people under the guise of enforcing public decency laws."
The ACLU said the letter "outlines several incidents in which undercover officers approached people parked in their cars, sitting on their own porches or walking down the street and asked suspects to engage in illegal sexual activity, including prostitution and having sex in a public place. The individuals either declined or offered to engage in lawful private sexual contact, but were arrested anyway."
"Consenting adults should not be arrested for acts that don't break any laws," said Victoria Middleton, executive director of the ACLU of South Carolina. "These sting operations enable officers to make as many arrests as possible, while they do nothing to stop actual criminal activity from occurring."
The ACLU website says, "Illegal arrests involve sting operations against suspected prostitutes and men who have sex with men. Officers have repeatedly arrested individuals for being in places known to be frequented by prostitutes, for being 'known prostitutes,' or merely saying they'd 'think about it' when officers approached them to solicit illegal activity. Officers have also arrested men who have sex with men even when the suspects clearly sought to engage in private, consensual, non-commercial sex instead of sex in a public location."
"In one case, an undercover officer offered a woman a ride and tried to persuade her to accept money in exchange for sex. While she said she wouldn't do 'the prostitution thing,' they continued discussing a place where they could have sex, and the woman rubbed the inside of the officer's thigh. She was arrested for sexual assault and battery and loitering to engage in prostitution. A similar incident occurred when a man was arrested for assault for touching a male officer who asked to engage in oral sex."
Ezekiel Edwards, director of the ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project, said on the website that the "decoy operations" waste taxpayer dollars and are not effective.
Edwards said, "The people who have been arrested in these stings are being humiliated and harassed for no lawful reason. Innocent people should not be trapped for engaging in their legal right to ask to have sex in private with another adult."
To read the letter that was sent to the Sheriff's Office, click here.
In a release Thursday afternoon, GCSO Lt. Michael Hildebrand said: "We have seen the information online, but have not received any official notification from the ACLU. We will be speaking with the Solicitor's Office and the County Attorney's office about the information contained in their letter. Until we have had time to review the information contained in their letter, I could not speak about any specifics they are referencing."