Duncanville councilman remains on ballot despite resignation following 3rd arrest for gay sex

Scott Cannon

A Duncanville city councilman who’s been arrested three times for public sex with other men remains on the May ballot and has tried to participate in city business despite his announced resignation last month.

Councilman Scott Cannon, 58, announced that he was resigning after he was arrested by Dallas police March 8 on a charge of indecent exposure. He was picked up with four other men at King Spa on Royal Lane in Dallas. That facility is a day spa with a Korean restaurant.

Although his resignation was “effective immediately,” Texas law states that a public official continues in office until replaced.

Cannon remains on the ballot for the May 12 municipal election and he recently tried to participate in a meeting despite his resignation, according to The Dallas Morning News (subscription only). He was prevented from participating when the council voted to postpone the meeting. He is not actively campaigning and returned campaign contributions, but he remains popular and could be re-elected.

Cannon was arrested two other times on public lewdness charges 30 years ago. Both of those cases involved his having sex with men in a public place. Once was at Paris Adult Theater on Harry Hines Boulevard, The DMN reports. That case was dismissed, but six months later he was arrested for having sex in a restroom at Tenison Park in East Dallas. He pleaded guilty, paid a fine and received probation.

Cannon is married with three children and four grandchildren.

His current case is set for hearing on May 4, the week before the election.

Duncanville is a suburb just south of Dallas.

—  David Taffet

COVER STORY: Falling into a trap

Man arrested in park wants to warn others to avoid the situation that he says has ruined his life

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer

Bill was arrested in the park outside the Dallas Theater Center for indecent exposure on Nov. 6, 2009. He believes the incident was entrapment and wants to warn others to avoid getting into a similar situation.

Attorney John Loza, who has handled a number of similar cases, explained that while this story sounds like entrapment, from a legal standpoint, the police did nothing wrong.

“Texas courts have a tradition of being very lenient about what an officer can do,” Loza said.

Bill asked that his real identity not be revealed for this story. He has children and has been unable to find a job since his arrest. The incident, he said, left him depressed and suicidal.

“I wasn’t aware they could do what they did,” Bill said.

What a police officer did, Bill said, was approach his car and then spend 45 minutes trying to entice Bill into making a sexual advance before arresting him. Bill said he never left his car.

SCENE OF THE CRIME | Bill points out where he was parked near Dallas Theater Center when he was approached by a man who turned out to be an undercover police officer who arrested him for exposing himself in public. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

Bill was living in Oklahoma at the time, and had come to Dallas for a doctor’s appointment after an accident the previous week. His car had been totaled in the accident, and that morning, he picked up a new one from a Toyota dealership in Lewisville.

Then Bill drove down to Oak Lawn where he was staying with a friend.

On the way, Bill stopped at a fast-food restaurant on Lemmon Avenue and picked up lunch. Then he drove to the park at the Dallas Theater Center to eat.

It was then, he said, that a hunky man in a Suburban approached him.

“This Hispanic guy pulled up next to me and he was smiling at me,” Bill said. “Then he asked me, ‘Would you like some company?’”

He asked Bill if he was alone. Bill said he was just having lunch.

He asked what Bill liked to do.

“Well what do you mean?” he said he asked the man.

Bill said the man said he liked to give blowjobs and he asked if Bill had “a big dick.”

Bill said his answers were short and standoffish, but the man persisted.

At one point, Bill said, he even told the man, “If you want that, I’m not the person.”

When another car pulled up near him, the man in the Suburban asked if he knew who that was. Bill said he didn’t.

The man suggested they go somewhere else more private, so they drove to the other side of the park.

Bill said, “We were 45 minutes into this and he just kept egging me on.”

Throughout the flirtation, Bill noticed the man in his car doing something in his lap. But since Bill was in a smaller car, he couldn’t see into the Suburban. He said it looked like the man was playing with himself.

Instead, Bill found out later, the man was a police officer and was texting his partner, who was hidden nearby.

At the man’s urging, Bill said he finally exposed himself. He said he didn’t realize what was happening at first when another man appeared from nowhere and placed him under arrest.

Bill said that the officer who had been coming on to him for almost an hour just hung his head.

Bill was charged with a Class B misdemeanor and pleaded no contest. There was no trial because that would have cost money that Bill said he didn’t have. The officer did not show up in court and Bill was given little opportunity to defend himself.

He said the police report had a number of facts wrong.

The police report said Bill motioned for the other man to come over. But Bill said that was false, adding that he was eating lunch when the officer approached him.

The report said Bill was masturbating and three cars passed by. But, Bill said, “There were no other cars there,” Bill said.

And, Bill said, he wasn’t masturbating and he only exposed himself, after 45 minutes of talking, when the other man — the police officer — told him to.
Bill isn’t speaking out now in hopes of avoiding charges or punishment. He has already been convicted and sentenced, and he has completed his sentence.

Instead, he said, he is speaking out now because “I just don’t want this to happen to anyone else. I wasn’t aware they could do anything like this, to entrap me.”

Adam Seidel, the criminal lawyer who represented Chad Gibson in the Rainbow Lounge raid, said that under Texas law, this probably wasn’t considered entrapment.

Although he didn’t have all the facts in the case or see the police report, Seidel said that normally, the officer would have had to lure Bill to another location under false pretenses before the case would be considered entrapment.

Across the park to a more secluded spot wouldn’t meet that standard.

In court, Bill said the judge asked him one question that he wasn’t prepared to answer: “What are you going to do to stop this.”

Bill said he answered, “I’ll stay out of the parks.” But that, apparently, was not the answer the judge was looking for.

Bill said what he was trying to convey was that he would avoid the situation in the future. What he was told the judge wanted to hear was that he was already getting counseling to correct his perceived “problem.”

But Bill said it never occurred to him that he had a “problem.”

Loza said he advises his clients to begin counseling before going to court. He said there are several advantages to that.

The judge will probably require some form of therapy anyway. But if it is court ordered, the assigned counselor may not be gay friendly.

By beginning counseling before going to court, the person can choose to see someone in the LGBT community. A judge will rarely require the person switch to a different counselor, Loza said.

Also, when a judge asks that question Bill was unprepared to answer, the defendant can say, “I have already begun counseling.”

Bill said his attorney didn’t advise him to seek counseling and didn’t prepare him with an answer to that judge’s question.

Loza said that of all of the similar cases he’s defended, only two have gone to trial. One was heard in front of just a judge and the defendant lost.

A jury heard the other, and the defendant won.

The client in the jury trial testified that he was at the park hiking, something he did often. He thought the first officer was coming on to him and was repulsed by it.

But these officers were determined to arrest his client, Loza said.

The second officer spoke Spanish. His client thought the man was homeless. He felt sorry for him and was trying to help. He claimed he never made any sexual advance or groped either one.

In that case, only one of the two officers involved was called to testify. In speaking to the jury after winning his case, Loza said they were bothered by not having heard from the second officer; perceived entrapment, he said, was not the issue that exonerated his client.

Loza said that exposure is a Class B misdemeanor. Public lewdness that includes groping is a Class A misdemeanor. Even if a person received deferred adjudication, with two or more indecent exposure arrests that person could be compelled to register as a sex offender in Texas.

Other states are even stricter.

After his arrest, Bill returned home to Oklahoma. He said that he was told that he had five days to register as a sex offender even before his Texas case was heard.

He did not register and instead moved to Dallas.

Loza warned that this type of arrest is expensive.

“You will need a lawyer,” he said. “And it’s rare that you’re going to be eligible for a court-appointed attorney.”

Most people plead no contest and are given deferred adjudication but there are heavy costs along with that. Probation carries a fine, court costs, a probation fee and fees for therapy.

Bill was given a year’s probation and 24 hours of community service and was also required to attend group counseling for sex offenders. He could have been fined $2,000 and put in jail for 180 days.

He does not have to register as a sex offender. Two years after probation, he can petition the court to seal the record.

Bill has had a hard time finding a job in Dallas and Loza said that’s common after an arrest like this.

Two years after probation, Bill can petition the court to seal the record.

“But even if the record is sealed,” Loza said, “There are so many places where records go. It’s floating out there.”

Loza had advice for anyone in a park in Dallas:

“If someone starts rubbing himself or making sexual remarks — leave,” he said.

He said that the undercover cop is going to be persistent. That’s how the vice squad works.

“Don’t let it develop until something happens,” he said. “These vice squad officers go out of their way to be undetectable.”

Bill said that the police report contained false statements. Loza said that it’s up to the individual officer’s integrity how truthful to be on the report.

And when a park arrest case for indecent exposure or public lewdness comes to court, the judge and jury tend to listen to the police, whether they’ve been truthful or not, and whether they’ve explained the extent to which they’re responsible for the incident or not.

“I don’t think it’s their job to go to the park to drum up business,” Bill said. “I was vulnerable that day and they took advantage of me.”

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Tea party mixes in social issues; details in anti-gay stoning; GLAAD Media Awards

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Surprise!!! The tea party in Texas isn’t concerned only with fiscal issues, according to The Dallas Morning News (subscription required). Turns out, it also contains its fair share of homophobes, racists and misogynists: “Tea parties arose out of concern for liberty and fiscal issues,” says tea-bagging State Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford. “However, you have a lot of people in the tea party groups in Texas that are focused on abortion, defense of marriage.” So let me see if I understand this — the tea party in Texas wants to shrink government if it means lower taxes for rich people, but wants to expand government if it means denying rights to minority groups? How convenient.

2. A 28-year-old murder suspect in Pennsylvania told authorities he killed his elderly victim by beating him with rocks because the Bible says homosexuals should be stoned to death. John Joe Thomas said he murdered 70-year-old Murray Joseph Seidman after the older man made sexual advances toward him. In fact, though, the two had been close companions and Thomas had been named executor and sole beneficiary of Seidman’s will. They met when Thomas was a patient at a psychiatric ward where Seidman worked. Thomas had recently been trying to get more money from Seidman, according to the victim’s brother. And Thomas became a suspect in Seidman’s murder after being picked up on other charges — indecent exposure, open lewdness, and disorderly conduct.

3. Russell Simmons and Ricky Martin were among those honored at the GLAAD Media Awards on Saturday in New York. Martin, who finally came out last March, took home the Vito Russo Award for promoting equality. Watch video of his acceptance speech below. For a full list of award winners, go here.

—  John Wright

DA Craig Watkins says Club Dallas charges were dismissed based on U.S. Constitution

On Wednesday we reported that charges have now been dismissed or rejected against all 11 men arrested in the Dallas Police Department’s October raid of The Club Dallas, a gay bathhouse in Deep Ellum.

Today, Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins for the first time publicly addressed the reasons behind his office’s dismissal of the charges, issuing a one-sentence statement.

“Based upon the U. S. Constitution and the applicable Texas statute, the elements of the offense were unprovable,” Watkins said.

Watkins didn’t specify which portion of the Constitution he was referring to, but undoubtedly it’s the right to privacy.

Seven of the men were charged with public lewdness, which is defined as sexual intercourse or sexual contact in a public place. However, defense attorneys have raised questions about whether the confines of the Club Dallas are considered a public place under the law.

Three of the men were charged with indecent exposure, which 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 …” But defense attorneys say it’s difficult to argue that sex in a bathhouse is recklessly offensive when all members typically sign waivers saying they acknowledge it takes place.

—  John Wright

DA’s office confirms that charges have been dismissed or rejected in all 11 Club Dallas cases

The Dallas County District Attorney’s Office has now dismissed or rejected charges against all 11 of the men arrested in a controversial police raid at a gay bathhouse in October.

Jamille Bradfield, a spokeswoman for the DA’s office, confirmed today that 10 of the cases have been dismissed, while one was rejected and therefore will not be filed.

Bradfield said District Attorney Craig Watkins was out of the office and unavailable for comment. Bradfield said it’s possible that Watkins will be available for comment Thursday about why the DA’s office chose not to prosecute the cases.

Watkins previously has declined to discuss the matter because some of the cases were still pending.

Defense attorneys have said they believe the cases were dismissed over questions about whether the bathhouse, Club Dallas on Swiss Avenue in Deep Ellum, is considered a public place. Court documents say only that the cases were dismissed “in the interest of justice.”

Ten of the 11 men were charged with public lewdness or indecent exposure after undercover officers observed them engaging in various sex acts inside the business. An employee was charged with interfering with police after he refused to allow uniformed officers into the club to execute the arrests.

Dallas police have said they conducted the raid, the first of its kind in recent memory, in response to a citizen complaint. But police officials have declined to comment on whether they’ll conduct vice operations at Club Dallas or other gay bathhouses in the future, given that the DA’s office dismissed the cases.

“The Dallas Police Department recently learned that many of the charges involving activities at The Club Dallas in October 2010 were dismissed,” DPD said in a statement last month. “The department plans to meet with the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office as soon as possible regarding these cases. The purpose of the meeting is to determine the cause of the dismissals, and to determine what, if any, procedural changes may be needed. An update will be provided following the meeting.”

—  John Wright

Charges dismissed in raid of gay bathhouse

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Online Editor

Charges have been dismissed against most of the 11 men arrested for engaging in sex acts during a Dallas Police Department raid of The Club Dallas in October.

The Dallas County District Attorney’s Office confirmed this week that it dismissed charges against at least six of the men earlier this month. Defense attorneys for the men said they expected charges to be dismissed against the others soon.

DA  Craig Watkins didn’t elaborate on why his office chose not to prosecute the cases, citing the fact that charges against at least one of the men had not yet been dismissed.

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

David Hill, a defense attorney who represents nine of the 11 men, said charges were dismissed over questions about whether The Club Dallas is defined as a public place under Texas law. Seven of the men were charged with public lewdness, three were charged with indecent exposure, and one was charged with interfering with police.

“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 said Wednesday, Jan. 19. “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.”

Hill commended the District Attorney’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 gay 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.”

Neither DPD Chief David Brown nor LGBT liaison officer Laura Martin responded to requests for comment.

DPD’s vice unit has said it conducted the raid in response to a citizen complaint.

A co-owner of The Club Dallas declined to comment on the dismissal of the charges.

—  John Wright

Top 10: Rare bathhouse raid sparked controversy

No. 10:

View all of the Top 10

When Dallas vice officers raided The Club Dallas on Oct. 8 for the first time in recent memory, it made national news and gave rise to some conspiracy theories. Some said the raid was part of a city effort to shut down the gay bathhouse to make way for redevelopment around a new DART rail station, which sits directly adjacent to the 34-year-old establishment at 2616 Swiss Ave. in Deep Ellum. Others said the raid was politically motivated since it came just before a major election, as such crackdowns have historically tended to do. Still others, of course, felt it was an example of law enforcement targeting the gay community.

But the Dallas Police Department, in a rare statement issued by the vice unit several days later, said the raid was conducted in response to a complaint from a citizen. “The Dallas Police Department is charged with the duty of investigating, enforcing, and responding to citizen complaints regarding sexually oriented businesses throughout the city,” the statement read in part. “The Vice Unit is committed to being responsive to community concerns and thus, conducts its investigations in an equitable and just manner.”

Indeed, records obtained by Dallas Voice through a Freedom of Information request confirm that an unidentified person made a complaint to police about the club on Oct. 5. Three days later, on a Friday night, plainclothes vice officers purchased day memberships, rented private rooms and changed into towels. Then they went into the common areas of the business and observed patrons engaged in sex acts, according to police reports.

After uniformed officers were called in, police arrested seven patrons on charges of public lewdness and three on charges of indecent exposure. They also arrested a manager for interfering with police after he refused to let in the uniformed officers, who eventually forced open a door.

Club members and others accused the Police Department of harassment and intimidation. They also argued that raiding the gay bathhouse would only drive men looking for sex into parks and public restrooms.

The Club Dallas bailed its members out of jail and said it would provide attorneys.

Meanwhile, according to police records, the person who made the complaint called back on Oct. 13 and asked authorities to raid the business again. Despite the second complaint, vice officers haven’t returned to Club Dallas.

— John Wright

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 31, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

This is what happens when people like State Rep. Sally Kern condone heterosexual bestiality

Believe it or not, anti-gay Oklahoma State Rep. Sally Kern once suggested that she believes bestiality is OK as long as it’s heterosexual. It’s true: She made the statement during an interview with Sirius XM Radio’s Michelangelo Signorile about Kern’s book-banning campaign way back in 2005 — long before she became such a famous bigot.

In a column published by The Windy City Times, Signorile wrote that he asked Kern whether she shouldn’t try to ban Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, since Snow White kisses a frog. “The difference there,” Kern responded, “is that that is still in the heterosexual lifestyle.”

Well, it appears as though five years later, one married heterosexual couple from Bethany, Okla. — which is in Kern’s district and backyard — may have taken her words to heart. The Oklahoman reports:

Edward James Double, 35, and his wife, Brandy Teresa Double, 35, were jailed Tuesday on complaints of bestiality, exhibition of obscene materials to minor children, maintaining a disorderly house, possession of illegal drugs and soliciting sexual conduct with a minor. Edward Double also faces a complaint of indecent exposure.

“We’ve recovered videotape of people having sex with animals,” Bethany Police Chief Phil Cole said. “It’s disgusting. And we pray that none of the kids have been molested.”

Cole said upon review of the video evidence, recordings were found of the Doubles having sexual relations with a canine. Investigators were able to determine the recordings were made in the master bedroom of the home. Investigators also found 6 grams of marijuana and paraphernalia in the home.

Three dogs were taken from the residence, Cole said.

The story doesn’t indicate the sex of the dogs, but as long as the marriage was between a man and a woman, right? Who knows, maybe Kern can try to get these fine upstanding heterosexuals a pardon.

—  John Wright

The Dallas Police Department makes national news for its crackdown on a gay bathhouse

The Dallas Police Department has officially made national news for its raid 10 days ago of The Club Dallas, the gay bathhouse in Deep Ellum, which resulted in 11 arrests on charges including public lewdness and indecent exposure.

Towleroad, Queerty and Joe.My.God., which could easily be called “the big three” of national gay news blogs, have all posted items about the raid. Their posts are for the most part straightforward, but Joe Jervis at Joe.My.God. raises a good question: “Interesting that this took place weeks before an election, eh?”

Instant Tea has long heard that these types of vice operations tend to occur shortly before elections, but we’re still not quite sure why. Presumably the incumbents want to show that they’re tough on crime and extra-tough on sex-related offenses. But city elections aren’t until May. Do you mean to tell us that this raid was designed to help Gov. Rick Perry?

Here’s another good question to ask now that the story has made national news: Does publicity about the raid help or hurt Dallas? Discuss.

UPDATE: Not sure why it didn’t occur to us before, but of course the Dallas County district attorney is up for re-election in November. Is it at all possible that Craig Watkins was behind this raid?

—  John Wright

11 arrested in raid at Club Dallas

DPD liaison says action prompted by complaint, warns more police activity possible at bathhouse

John Wright | Online Editor wright@dallasvoice.com

Dallas police Officer Laura Martin, liaison to the LGBT community.
Dallas police Officer Laura Martin, liaison to the LGBT community.

Eleven people were arrested at The Club-Dallas on Friday night, Oct. 8, when police raided the gay bathhouse in Deep Ellum for the first time in several years.

Ten patrons of The Club reportedly were charged with either public lewdness or indecent exposure, while one employee was charged with interfering with police. DPD would only release records related to three of the 11 arrests, saying Dallas Voice needed to file a freedom of information request to obtain additional details.

Laura Martin, DPD’s liaison officer to the gay community, said the vice unit raided the establishment on Swiss Avenue in response to a complaint. But police wouldn’t say who had complained.

Martin said she believes it marked the first time since 2003 vice officers have gone in to the 34-year-old establishment, one of nine similar clubs nationwide.

“We’ve done operations in that club since the late ’70s. There just hasn’t been one in a while because there hasn’t been a complaint,” Martin said. “They [officers] were in there for a legitimate reason, and obviously there was illegal activity going on or that many arrests wouldn’t have been made.”

The Club Dallas on Thursday, Oct. 14 issued a one-sentence statement about the raid.

“The Club Dallas management is committed to pursuing justice for and defending the rights of each of its members,” the statement read.

The Club reportedly helped bond out arrested members from jail and has offered them legal representation.
Martin, meanwhile, warned that additional police activity at the business is possible.

“When somebody complains we have to go in, just like when someone calls 911 we have to go to the call,” Martin said. “Now that so much activity was found there, they can probably expect more vice operations there. … I’ve certainly never been there, but I’ve heard that public lewdness does go on in the club. All you have to do is keep your ears open.”

Though it is billed as “a private men’s club,” The Club Dallas is considered a public place for the purposes of Texas’ public lewdness statute, according to one criminal defense attorney who frequently represents people charged with the crime.

Public lewdness, defined as sexual intercourse or sexual contact in a public place, is a class-A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a maximum $4,000 fine.

Criminal defense attorney Tim Menchu said a public place has been interpreted by Texas appellate courts to mean any place “a substantial group of the public has access to.”

“Just having to pay a cover charge doesn’t take you out of the realm,” Menchu said, adding that he would argue in court, “I guess everyone in the world has access to the bottom of the ocean, but nobody’s going to go there.”

Of the three individuals whose arrest reports were released to Dallas Voice, one was charged with public lewdness and two were charged with indecent exposure, which 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 …”

Indecent exposure is a class-B misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a maximum $2,000 fine.

Menchu said he once successfully fought indecent exposure charges against five men who were arrested at Midtowne Spa, another gay bathhouse in Dallas. He said it’s hard for prosecutors to argue that the activity is recklessly offensive when all club members typically sign waivers saying they acknowledge it takes place.

“I don’t think it flies,” Menchu said of the indecent exposure charges.

“They didn’t go to the freakin’ park. They’re not out in the mall in the bathrooms. What the hell is wrong with that?” said Menchu, who’s straight.

“I personally have no problem with it. The problem is that with these particular officers in the vice unit, and with the DA’s office and with the state of the law, you’re putting yourself at risk.”

One member of The Club-Dallas who asked not to be identified said he doesn’t believe most patrons are aware of the risk. The member said one of his friends who is bisexual but was not out to his family was arrested in the raid, forcing him to call relatives from jail and explain what happened.

“Guys just honestly don’t know,” the member said.

“Most of these guys, if not every single one of them, while the police were interviewing them said, ‘How is this illegal? This is a private men’s club.’

“You’ve got to realize if you take away our places to have our sexual releases, that means we have no choice but to return to the streets, so it’s not a smart move,” the member added.

Another member who was present during the raid but was not arrested, accused police of  harassment and intimidation.

According to police reports, two undercover officers paid their way into The Club and gathered evidence, before additional officers came in and helped execute the arrests.

The member said the officers were carrying plastic flexcuffs and detained him for 45 minutes even though he was just working out in the fitness area.

He said he believes the city is trying to shut down The Club to make way for redevelopment around the new DART station that sits next door.

At one point the member said he heard one of the officers remark that, “I’m going to have nightmares forever after this.”

The member said he was also at The Club-Dallas the following night when the fire marshal paid a visit. “There’s real crime going on in the city, and they don’t need to be harassing a private club,” he said. “I’m irritated and I’m frustrated because I feel like the police department is targeting them.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 15, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas