Volume 79, Number 17 | Sept. 30 - Oct 6, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933


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

Victim of false gay prostitution arrests sues city

By DUNCAN OSBORNE 

Charging that his constitutional rights were violated, a gay man busted for prostitution last year by city vice police in an East Village porn shop has sued the city in federal court.

“The actions taken against the Plaintiff in targeting him, entrapping him, arresting him, taking him into custody, and otherwise detaining him and prosecuting him were taken for collateral objectives other than the legitimate objectives associated with an arrest and prosecution,” wrote James I. Meyerson, the attorney for Robert Pinter, in a Sept. 10 filing.

Pinter, 53, was arrested in October last year in Blue Door Video on First Ave. after a younger, Asian-American man flirted with him and suggested the two leave the store for consensual sex in a nearby car. As they were exiting, the young man, who told Pinter he was 29, said he would pay Pinter $50 for oral sex. Pinter said he ignored that comment and was then busted for prostitution.

Initially, Pinter pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and received a small fine and a light sentence. He challenged that plea earlier this year and it was vacated. The case was reopened and the charge was dismissed.

Pinter is one of at least 30 gay and bisexual men who were arrested for prostitution in at least six Manhattan porn shops in 2008. The Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement and the Police Department’s legal unit, in separate cases, then cited those arrests in nuisance abatement lawsuits brought against those shops. The suits aimed at closing the stores.

As defendants, Pinter named Mayor Mike Bloomberg; Police Commissioner Ray Kelly; the undercover officer who made the bust and was identified only by the badge number 31107; other senior uniformed police officials; and Shari Hyman, director of the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement.

In a written statement, Pinter said, “While I acknowledge that some, including District Attorney Morgenthau, have endeavored to address the injustice which I and others have suffered, the high-ranking elected and appointed individuals, including the police commissioner and high-ranking uniform command officers under his command, and the mayor and the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement, who are responsible for the city’s policies and practices which resulted in my unjust arrest and the unjust arrest of others, have done nothing to acknowledge the injustice that their policies caused me and the many others or to apologize for the humiliation and anguish which I and others have suffered.”

The Police Department does not comment on pending litigation, and the Mayor’s Press Office referred calls to the city’s Law Department, which did not respond by press time.

Pinter’s suit is just the first related to busts made in porn shops or spas by the Manhattan South Vice Enforcement Squad that has been filed.

Attorney Michael Spiegel also has clients who were arrested by police officers from that squad in porn shops or spas, and he expects to file suit in federal court as well.

In 2005, Spiegel represented a gay man arrested for public lewdness in a police sting in 2000 in a World Trade Center bathroom. He won a $1.1 million judgment for his client that was later reduced to $464,000, with a separate award of just more than $300,000 in attorney’s fees.

Attorney Ronald Saffner is representing a man who was arrested in 2008 by those same vice officers in a Gramercy Park spa. He will file suit in state court.

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