Attorney: Charges dismissed over questions about whether gay bathhouse is a public place

Posted on 19 Jan 2011 at 12:45pm

The District Attorney’s Office is dismissing charges against 11 men arrested in an October raid of The Club Dallas over questions about whether the gay bathhouse in Deep Ellum is defined as a public place under Texas law, according to an attorney who represents nine of the defendants.

Seven of the defendants were charged with public lewdness, three were charged with indecent exposure, and one was charged with interfering with police after the Dallas Police Department’s vice unit raided the Swiss Avenue establishment on Oct. 8.

Public lewdness is defined as sexual intercourse or sexual contact in a public place. Indecent exposure is defined as exposing one’s genitals with the intent to arouse or gratify and in a manner that is “reckless about whether another is present who will be offended or alarmed …”

The defense attorney, David Hill, said he didn’t want to discuss the cases in great detail because charges against at least two of the men have not yet been dismissed. However, he said The Club Dallas has a certificate of occupancy from the city indicating that it’s a private facility.

“The issue relates to whether it’s a public versus private location, so you can imagine that the decisions and the conversations I had with them [prosecutors] hinged on that element,” Hill told Instant Tea on Wednesday. “After reviewing the cases, the District Attorney’s Office made a determination that it was in the best interest of justice to dismiss the cases.”

The District Attorney’s Office confirmed that charges have been dismissed against at least six of the men but declined to comment further.

“Due to the fact that these cases are so closely related, commenting on the dismissed cases would affect the prosecution of the pending case,” Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins said in a statement.

Hill commended the DA’s Office for its decision.

“They were willing to take the time to look at these cases with an open mind and make a determination after having done that,” he said.

Asked whether it’s safe for people to go to the bathhouses, Hill said he was reluctant to offer broad legal advice.

“I think everyone has to make their own decision about their own personal conduct, but I would think that the decision regarding these cases would give people some comfort about that,” Hill said. “I don’t begin to assume what DPD is going to do in the future, but I would think the fact that the cases were filed, and the result that’s come about in this case, I’m sure they have other things they’d rather spend their resources on than purusing cases that may or may not get prosecuted.”

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