Volume 79, Number 4 | July 1 - 7, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933


Photo by Vadim Shepel 

Robert Pinter at a February rally demanding an end to false arrests of gay men in Manhattan porn shops.

Leader in the fight against bogus busts at porn stores is vindicated

BY DUNCAN OSBORNE

The gay man who was arrested for prostitution in a Manhattan porn shop last year and then led the opposition to such busts by police had his guilty plea vacated and his case dismissed on June 22.

“I’m elated,” said Robert Pinter, who was one of 30 or more men arrested for prostitution in 2008 in at least six Manhattan porn shops. “I’m grateful for all the help and support. I can’t help thinking of the other 30 cases, the other 30 guys, who have not sought any relief yet. I’m hoping this decision will encourage others to come forward.”

Pinter was busted last October in Blue Door Video on First Ave. in the East Village. Like many of the men, he pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct at his first hearing and was given a small fine and light sentence. This is the easiest and quickest way to make such charges disappear. On April 17, Pinter moved to vacate his plea. He said an undercover police officer, with whom he agreed to leave the shop to have consensual sex, fabricated a statement alleging Pinter had asked for money.

Responding to Pinter’s motion, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office argued that “there is no legal basis for the relief sought by Pinter” and that “there was probable cause for the defendant’s arrest and prosecution.” However, the prosecutor also noted that “it is unlikely that the defendant went to the location...with the intent to solicit money for sex, as supported by his age (52 upon arrest), lack of a prior record for prostitution-related offenses and overall law-abiding history.”

Gregory B. LeDonne, the assistant district attorney who authored the prosecutor’s motion, then wrote that his office would not oppose Pinter’s motion and would drop the case against him if it was granted.

“I appreciate the D.A.’s decision to not oppose the application and to dismiss the case,” said Susan V. Tipograph, the attorney who wrote Pinter’s motion to vacate. “I hope that this reflects not only justice for Robert Pinter, but that it has some effect on what the Police Department’s long-term strategies are going to be in terms of targeting the gay community.”

With the guilty plea vacated and the case dismissed, Pinter is free to sue the city if he chooses, though he said he has not yet decided if he will do so. Such suits can be long and drawn out, but they are also often the only way to force the Police Department to surrender records.

“I really want to get to the bottom of this,” Pinter said. “The D.A. needs to still look at what was going on here.”

The police have said they were responding to complaints when they sent undercover officers into the porn shops to make the busts, though the department has yet to respond to an open-records request for copies of those complaints.

In most cases, the Police Department’s legal unit or the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement cited the prostitution arrests in nuisance-abatement lawsuits that they brought against the porn shops in an effort to close them.

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