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

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
wright@dallasvoice.com

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

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

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.”

—  John Wright

Top 10: Rare bathhouse raid sparked controversy

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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

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

11 arrested in DPD vice operation at Club Dallas

Officer Laura Martin

Eleven people were arrested at Club Dallas on Friday night, Oct. 8, when vice officers raided the gay-oriented gym in response to a complaint, according to Laura Martin, the Dallas Police Department’s LGBT liaison officer.

Martin said 10 of those arrested were charged with public lewdness — or sexual activity in public — while one was charged with interfering with police. The person charged with interfering with police reportedly was a Club Dallas employee who didn’t immediately comply with officers. Martin said she believes it was the first vice operation at Club Dallas —commonly known as a gay “bathhouse” — since 2003.

“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. It just happened that no one complained in a few years, so they haven’t been in there in a few years.”

The manager of Club Dallas, on Swiss Avenue in Deep Ellum, didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment, but Martin said she feels the vice operation was justified and conducted appropriately.

“I’ve certainly never been there, but I’ve heard that public lewdness does go on in the club,” she added. “All you have to do is keep your ears open.”

Though they may seem private, the confines of businesses such as Club Dallas are considered public places under Texas’ public lewdness statute.

Martin said police won’t reveal the source of the complaint, but she said it was “most likely a former member who thought they didn’t get what they paid for.” However, she said it’s also possible that the complaint was made by another business owner in the area, which is undergoing redevelopment thanks to DART’s new rail line.

“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.”

One Club Dallas member who witnessed the vice operation but was not arrested said officers were rude and unprofessional during the operation. He also said he feels the club is being targeted by the city to make way for the redevelopment.

The member, who asked not to be identified, said he was working out when he went around the corner to get a drink of water and was confronted by an officer. He said he was forced to remain seated throughout the operation.

“He said, ‘You sit down there and you don’t move,’” the member said. “I tried to ask him what’s this about, and he said, ‘You just chill out.’ They detained us when we were just working out, which I thought was strange.”

The member said about a dozen officers participated in the raid, which began at 9:30 p.m. and lasted until 10:15 p.m.

The officers came in carrying plastic flexcuffs and seemed to be trying to intimidate patrons, the member said.

At one point the member said he heard one of the officers remark that, “I’m going to have nightmares forever after this,” a reference to the fact that it was a gay-oriented business.

The member said he was also at 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, and I don’t appreciate being talked to like that, being detained.”

Public lewdness is a class-A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a maximum $4,000 fine.

—  John Wright

Public lewdness charge dropped against ex-WFAA anchor Brad Hawkins

A public lewdness charge against former WFAA anchor Brad Hawkins has been rejected by the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office, according to Hawkins’ attorney, Peter Schulte.

Hawkins, now a spokesman for Southwest Airlines, was arrested in April following an incident at Flag Pole Hill Park near White Rock Lake.

Schulte told Dallas Voice the DA’s office has elected not to prosecute Hawkins.

“He didn’t commit a crime,” Schulte said, calling it a “false arrest.”

“That conduct as alleged by the police department does not constitute a crime,” Schulte added.

—  John Wright