Jerked Around | Feature | Chicago Reader

Jerked Around 

A sunny day, a college campus, a guy masturbating ten feet from me. Getting him arrested was easy; bringing him to justice was the hard part.

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The Incident

Very simple, really, considering what was to come, the morning breath of the judicial system finally, thickly, uttering a judgment. But already I am ahead of myself. I am a graduate student at the University of Chicago, working toward a PhD in art history. At the time of the Incident I was the teaching assistant for an introductory course in African art, which met in the Cochrane-Woods Art Center (CWAC) on the university campus. On April 12, 1994 this class had concluded at 2:20, and as was my custom I stepped outside the building into the clean spring air to have a cigarette. While smoking, which is prohibited in the building itself, I was joined by two friends who were converging independently on the building. Together, we made a lovely Botticelli-like trio: a brunet, a redhead, and a blond.

The classes were changing and the building was relatively populated, so at first I didn't notice his presence. But within 15 minutes, after the hallway wanderers had found and settled into their appropriate classrooms, one figure, a white man, remained standing about ten feet away from us, inside the building on the other side of two plate-glass doors. I still don't know what drew my attention to him, but I like to think it was the sense of quick movement, a piece of the world shifting rapidly within a limited environment. I'll stick with that for now, because what I did notice when I focused my attention on him was that he was standing inside, looking at us, and vigorously masturbating.

Any urban dweller or anyone who has been to France would not be entirely shocked by his actions; as both an urban dweller and one who's traveled in France, however, I was still somewhat surprised. So out of context were his actions that I asked my two compatriots (both urban dwellers and both veterans of trips to France) to confirm what I was seeing. Despite being an art historian and thus well versed in the mechanics of imagery, I could not quite come to cognitive assonance about his activity. It seemed so personal, so directed at me and my friends, such a violation to be standing in our classroom building, so much of all these things that I didn't believe it. And yes, as ridiculous as it sounds it did seem threatening--not in the act itself, but in the audacity of exposing oneself in broad daylight in a populated building.

Having the act confirmed by my friends, I then asked one of my friends, Betsy, to call campus security from a phone located in another entrance to the building. There is no doubt that the masturbator could have seen where she was headed, and Anne and I began to fear for an encounter between the two of them, both moving through the same hallways. When she left to make the call, my friend and I watched her; as a result, we did not see the masturbator slip out of the building (from which there are numerous entrances and exits). We did not see him leave his spot, we did not see him ejaculate, we did not see in what direction he might have been headed. We only watched Betsy on the phone.

The University of Chicago police, however helpful they turned out to be, apparently needed help locating CWAC, which is next door to the police headquarters. It took them about five minutes to cross the sidewalk between the two buildings. In the meantime, of course, the masturbator was gone. A cursory check of the bathrooms and classrooms yielded nothing, and the two officers departed after making cracks about "performance art." Ah well. We stayed around the building discussing the incident and trying to figure out how to get on with the rest of our day.

I left Betsy, Anne, and the building about 45 minutes later with another friend. I walked her to her car in the hope that she'd ask if I needed a ride home. Leaving the block of the art center, we were about to cross 55th Street, a major Hyde Park thoroughfare. Doing the dutiful traffic head-swivel, out of the corner of my eye I saw a figure about 20 feet behind us. Not unusual. What made me linger on the figure was a field of pink that had emerged from his pants; he was still here, still exposed (although flaccid this time), and following me. By this point it wasn't funny, wasn't anything to joke about. I don't know if our second meeting was coincidental or not; I do know that I was now nervous and that I felt he was escalating the chances of contact. Luckily, my friend's car was less than a block away. We got into it as he continued on behind us, and as I fumbled with a car phone, unable to get it to work and unable to remember the campus security number despite seeing it stickered on just about every surface around the university, he passed the car and headed northwest, still in sight. Eventually we drove two blocks to the campus security building, flagging down a campus cop in his car en route. We pointed to his general direction, described his clothes, and were instructed to go to the security building and wait for further instructions, which we did.

In the meantime, I rounded up the two original victims of the first (masturbatory, rather than mere exposure) encounter, who were still at the scene of the original crime. The University of Chicago police officer duly returned with the masturbator, whom we identified as the officer pulled him out of the back of the patrol car. He was arrested, and we began the lengthy process of filling out and filing complaints, which were then passed on to Chicago police officers for "processing." More jokes about performance art ensued, and the last we saw of the masturbator he was in the back of a police car heading off to the station.

What compelled us to pursue this? Part of it was sheer momentum--the logical process of the witnessing of a crime, the apprehension of a suspect, and the completing of paperwork--demanding a conclusion. Part of it was the duty we felt to rid the area of a potentially threatening and obviously quite fearless man suffering from some sort of overwhelming sexual urge. Part of it too was the sheer originality and novelty of the incident. Our first time talking to real Chicago cops! Hearing words like "booking" and "perpetrator"! And then of course there was the misguided desire to "help," the supposition that this man might receive some counseling and assistance regarding his problem.

This latter rationale became all the more profound as we sat in the University of Chicago police station completing the reports. We learned that this man was married and had children; we learned that he was an employee of Peoples Gas and thus had access to private homes and apartments; we learned that he had no prior record for this activity but had once been arrested for marijuana possession, a dubious crime as far as I was concerned. We were assigned a court date, and we left the building convinced that we were saving our department and possibly the planet from marauding sex offenders who had little respect for the bounds of propriety and decorum.

The Call

At six o'clock the next morning, I was awakened by a phone call from a woman who identified herself as this man's wife. He had overheard my name when I was answering some question and had simply called information to get my home number. Realizing that it was probably a mistake to talk to me himself, he instead prompted his wife from the background as she gave me a litany of excuses and rationales for his behavior. These rationales included: he was in the building for a legitimate reason, i.e., to pick up art school brochures for her as she was considering returning to school; he had a hole in his pants and was merely "adjusting" himself; she has known him for many years and he "just wouldn't do something like this"; we were mistaken as to what we believed we'd seen; he was going to lose his job if we pursued this, and with two kids he really needed the job.

This phone call accomplished several things, the most significant of which was that it terrified me. Having no experience with these types of offenses, but having seen many movie-of-the-week treatments of sex crimes and stalkings, I became convinced that because he knew my name, phone number, and address I would see him at my backdoor very shortly. The feeling that I had been targeted (because I was the only one who saw him twice) intensified and I grew extremely anxious. I called the University of Chicago police, who kindly sent an officer over to take a supplementary statement. I offered him tea and we talked about cats. He in turn contacted the Chicago police, and I then received a call from Officer K., the arresting officer, a big, good-natured young guy who reported that they had called the masturbator's wife and told her that intimidating a witness was a crime, and if it happened again they would arrest her and take her kids to DCFS. My guilt at instigating all of this began to grow to disproportionate levels as I considered myself responsible for the dissolution of their home life.

Later that day at work I discussed the incident with my boss, who advised me not to change my phone number (an action I was considering, anticipating nights of hang-ups and incessant phone ringing) but instead just to have it unlisted. She said: "You know, I have a hard time keeping track of the phone numbers I want to remember. He could've already lost your number and be making another call to information right now." Seeing this as an appropriate step to take, I called Illinois Bell, and for a fee they unlisted me.

Court Appearance 1

Our first court date was on May 27, a little more than a month after the original incident. We were sent to Branch 28, male misdemeanor court on south State Street. My journal entry for that day describes this court appearance as "boring and unproductive." We had been told to show up for the 11 o'clock call, which is the second set of cases to be run through on a given day, the first call in this courtroom being at 9:30. It's a good thing we were asked to show up for the later call, because much of the morning was spent in conversation about what to wear to court, none of us ever having appeared there before (except for random and unfulfilling jury duty calls). The herringbone suit I had chosen for the occasion turned out to be wildly inappropriate for a May day in male misdemeanor court. Surrounded by men wearing sweatpants, ankle and wrist weights, and T-shirts with the sleeves cut off, I looked like some kind of corporate missionary in the underworld. Besides a smattering of girlfriends and wives, we were also the only women in the cavernous room. For three hours we sat on uncomfortable wooden benches while groups of men shuffled forward for procedural blathering. We couldn't hear much but the nature of the cases called, and they included drugs and weapon possession, trespassing, and the most engrossing case of the day, a fight between two neighbors that involved accusations of child abuse, a hammer, and a cast-iron skillet.

All of these cases would, of course, be worthy of discussion if you were allowed to talk in court, but you are not. After being reprimanded several times by a wide-hipped sheriff's deputy, my friend Anne and I (Betsy had a prior engagement) were reduced to scribbling notes to each other on scraps of paper from our purses. It was really the only way to make the time pass in the courtroom, and it was lucky that we had pens on us as we sat there for several hours. By 1:30, the time of the lunch recess, the court had finished with its first, or 9:30, call. After the lunch recess the 11 o'clock call would begin. We had no way of knowing how long the recess would last or when we would appear in that call, and were thus required to remain there, sitting and waiting.

During the lunch break we were able to talk to Officer K., who had put on a tie with characters from the Disney movie Aladdin for the occasion. He was extraordinarily helpful in explaining the process to us, and also in explaining why he was going to leave and not wait for the case to be called. We panicked! The two of us, up there alone before a mean-spirited judge who had done nothing that morning, as far as we could tell, but sigh a lot and make remarks about inattention, inadequacy, and incompetence? K. convinced us that to leave at this point would "send the wrong message" that we did not take this offense and this case seriously enough to tough it out for a few hours in a courtroom. Guilt-ridden and anxious, we decided to stay.

K. had accurately predicted what would occur when we reached the front of the room, which we did about an hour after the lunch recess ended. Forced to stand within two feet of the masturbator, we tried our best to look dignified and victimized at the same time. The theatrics, however, were unnecessary. The judge asked the masturbator if he had a lawyer (no) and if he had the means to retain a lawyer (yes), and then continued our case until July 11 so that he could then appear adequately represented. We left absolutely furious with him. He's had six weeks to get a lawyer! He's got the money for a lawyer! Why didn't he show up with a lawyer? For some reason we stupidly thought that we might be able to wrap this thing up on this May day and were angry that we had to come back in July, a month in which our herringbone suits would definitely not work as court outfits. My sympathy for this man started to evaporate. I didn't want him to lose his job, but I certainly didn't want him wandering around in his Peoples Gas van with passkeys to basements and apartments.

Peoples Gas was obviously concerned about this latter point, because as we exited the courtroom we found two of their representatives waiting for us, wanting to know whether or not we'd be willing to discuss the Incident. If we couldn't testify in front of the judge, we could easily do it here! We ran through everything that had happened; we drew maps and diagrams; we expressed indignation and outrage. They were soothing and apologetic, letting us know that there was an internal review of this incident and that his employment with the utility company did not depend on the outcome of this court case. Did this mean he was going to be fired? Had he already been fired? We didn't really stop to ask because we didn't really want to know. I did not want to be or feel responsible for the welfare of him and his family; or maybe I knew that I was responsible and just didn't want to be reminded of my role in his life, having filed the complaint in the first place.

What was remarkable about this first court appearance was our anger in the face of this initial continuance. Considering what was to happen, this first delay should have made us understand how the whole process worked and what we should expect. In our naive and hopeful assessment of the situation, we remained convinced that this was an open-and-shut case of little import or magnitude on the scale of criminal activities. Surely a judge would see this and dispense with it accordingly. He's just exercising his constitutional powers, we told ourselves, and as American citizens we should be grateful that the accused have this kind of protection. Or, as the judge said simply when I rolled my eyes upon hearing about the continuance, "Ladies, it's his right."

Court Appearance 2

Our reservations about sitting in male misdemeanor court rose with the temperature. By July the courtroom was fully uncomfortable, the heat of the seventh floor being ineffectually pushed around by some ancient ceiling fans. The fans and the sweating population reminded me of that movie of the Scopes trial in which reporters and lawyers sat in a stifling courtroom in their seersucker suits constantly mopping the sweat off their faces. Having learned our lesson from the first appearance, Anne and I wore summer dresses (still reluctant to flagrantly disrespect the judicial system by wearing shorts and T-shirts, which remained the court outfit of choice for the spectators, complainants, and defendants in the room).

Again on the 11 o'clock call, we were lucky in getting up in front of the judge relatively quickly. Apparently when defendants engage private attorneys it puts them at the top of the call, and the others, without lawyers or with public defenders, have to literally sweat it out through everyone else's cases. The masturbator's lawyer was a tall man with acne-scarred skin. He carried a briefcase and looked moderately professional, at least to our eyes. Unfortunately he was not the "real" lawyer. When our case was called, we stood in front of the judge while the lawyer put his appearance on the record. The lawyer explained that the masturbator's "real" lawyer was sick, and the substitute lawyer was merely there to honor the appearance and to ask for a continuance, which was granted. Realization dawned on us slowly: was he really sick? were they just trying to wear us out? The masturbator rocked back on his heels, smiling at us. His hair was getting longer and he was attempting to grow some facial hair; he looked much more skanky than he did at the time of the Incident. The judge yelled at me when I asked, as politely as I could, why we couldn't take care of this now: "Well, we're here, and the defendant is here, and he has a lawyer present, so--?" The judge looked at me disgustedly and then said, "We're not all doing this for your convenience."

We received a trial date of October 26, and the state's attorney asked us whether or not we would be bringing any other witnesses. Since Betsy had moved to New York at the beginning of the summer, we suggested Margaret, the woman with the car who was with me for the second sighting. As we were spelling out her name, the substitute lawyer kept hanging around, trying to write down the name we were giving to the state's attorney. The state's attorney admonished him with growing irritation, "Counsel! Counsel! I am talking to my witnesses!" Finally the judge stepped in and told him to leave us alone and to let us confer in private.

On our way out, the substitute lawyer asked if he could speak to us. We looked at the state's attorney, one of a bevy of long-haired, long-legged, well-dressed state's attorneys that hovered around the big desk at the front of the room. She barely looked up from the fan of manila folders around her and said, "I can't tell you to speak to him and I can't tell you not to speak to him." Innocent of backdoor legal proceedings, despite the malevolent eavesdropping we had just witnessed, we agreed to talk to him, hoping that it would provide us with a way to eradicate the next court date. Once he spoke with us and saw that we were credible and willing to go the extra mile with this, surely the defendant's lawyer would drop these bogus delaying tactics and take whatever deal was offered for the misdemeanor.

The substitute lawyer first asked us to explain what happened, which we did. He sketched out a little diagram, drew directional arrows, and seemed sympathetic. He apologized for asking such questions, but he went ahead and inquired about ejaculation and size, letting us know that although these were embarrassing topics it was a vocabulary that we'd have to use in court. His sympathy and discomfort were entirely theatrical, and his crocodile tears for our tender female psyches were equally patronizing. Almost regretfully, he opened his briefcase, which contained nothing but an envelope and a pair of pants. The envelope was full of art school brochures addressed to the masturbator's wife. Apparently the masturbator had been in the building in order to collect information for his wife, who wanted to go back to school. In response to this "evidence," I said, "Look, I have a legitimate reason to be in this courthouse, but that doesn't give me the right to masturbate here." The fake lawyer looked at us as if we just didn't understand the magnitude of what he was presenting to us. This lawyer then pulled the pair of pants from his briefcase. These were apparently the jeans that the masturbator had been wearing at the time of the incident, jeans that had a quarter-size hole at the inseam in what has to be the major intersection of all pants, where the corners of the world meet. To me it seemed totally impossible that an erect penis could get through a hole that size; it seemed anatomically impossible that a penis could reach that hole to begin with. Anne, my corroborating witness, could not suppress a chuckle. In all seriousness, the fake lawyer said, "Well, now that you ladies have seen the evidence, don't you agree that it just might be best to drop these charges? He's married, he has a family! And you have to admit, our evidence is pretty strong."

Having seen their smoking guns, I replied that he was guilty and that the "evidence" didn't seem all that compelling to me. No, we would not drop the charges. We would be back on October 26.

Court Appearance 3

We have somehow magically progressed to the 9:30 court call, which means that whatever anxiety we feel about showing up in court now has to start earlier in the day. The huge room is, at least, less crowded and less hot. We continue to be accompanied by our groupies, including the patient University of Chicago police officer, Officer K. from the Chicago police (who wears a new Disney tie for each appearance), the Peoples Gas customer service supervisor, and the masturbator's supervisor. In addition, our third witness, Margaret, who was with me for the second sighting, has come along too, no doubt entranced by the tales we have been telling about the experience. Margaret could best be described as a reluctant witness. She has been hesitant to tell her husband about this whole mess because he is something of an overprotective type who would be concerned and dismayed that she would involve herself in a potentially dangerous situation. Not having much experience with sex offenders, we all continue to wonder if the masturbator is in fact dangerous to us. That question, it turns out, should have been the least of our worries.

Our case gets called and we trudge to the front of the room. The masturbator is now officially represented by a stocky paper bag of a man who has a neck like a bulldog, clear blue eyes, and a general aura of cheapness. His suit is shiny and ill fitting, his shoes are worn, and he has the irritating masculine habit of walking on his toes, making it look like he is always kind of prancing. He smirks a lot.

The first thing we learn is that the fake lawyer we spoke to last time is now a witness for the defense. This fact goes through me like a shot in the head. What were we thinking when we agreed to talk to him? And what does this mean? What could he possibly say about us or about our conversation with him? No one else looks concerned or surprised at this turn of events, but Anne and I are terrified. We are slowly falling into some huge trap that we don't understand--we don't understand how we got in it or how we're supposed to get out of it. With this announcement the lawyer smirks even more, glancing at us from under his neolithic eyebrows and thoroughly enjoying our discomfort and shock.

The second thing we learn is that the defense is requesting a jury trial. The immediate effect of this request is that we will be moved to a different branch, a different court location. We will now be required to go to domestic violence court, Branch 28. Our case is continued to November 15.

After this barren appearance, we stand outside the courtroom talking over the proceedings with the faithful Officer K. He has managed to maintain his sense of humor about the whole thing, having no doubt walked through criminal court many days of his career. The fake-lawyer-cum-witness is a tactic meant to intimidate us, which is working because we were stupid enough to talk to him in the first place. The request for a jury trial is a tactic meant to draw the whole thing out. After three appearances in Branch 46, the defense essentially gets a clean slate for continuances and delays once the branch and courtroom shift. It looks like we are beginning a new round of continuations and manipulations. It is now fall, and I will actually miss the view of the city that we get from that room. It is just high enough that the plume from Buckingham Fountain and a piece of the lake are visible and liberating.

As we are standing in the hallway outside the courtroom discussing these legal maneuvers, we hear a faint but pronounced rumbling. We hear shouts. We feel something pass through our little conversational group that smells of panic. Officer K. feels it too, and we start unconsciously edging toward the elevator. A second later it becomes clear what is happening--a massive courtroom fight has broken out between members of rival gangs. Out of the double doors of the courtroom bursts a fireball of 25 raging men and several hysterical sheriff's deputies. We are caught in the hallway, directly in front of the fireball, with no real escape. Others who had been loitering in the hall are in the same position, and we form a vanguard that has to run to keep ahead of the fight that is gaining on us second by second. The fireball pushes us down one corridor, around a corner, and down another corridor. We hear fists land, grunts, shouts of "motherfucker" inflected with a rage I have not encountered in five years in Chicago. The sheriff's deputies are yelling, "Get down! Get back!" and I wonder if any of these people have managed to get a gun through the lame and tiresome security check at the front door.

The knot seems to be growing, and I feel fear in that strange and exhilarating way, the way that one feels in a groundswell of movement at a large concert. The three of us are holding hands and trying to use Officer K. as a shield, especially since we realize that we are officially out of room in this hallway as the fireball moves closer and closer with a shouting and shuffling noise. This is all happening so fast--seconds really. K. finds an unlocked door labeled "Police Personnel Only" and shoves us into what turns out to be an empty locker room. The door is old and wooden, and he leans on it to keep it closed while it bows and buckles under the weight of the fight going on inches away. At the beginning of the fall Margaret told me that she was pregnant, and I think of my pounding heart and shaking hands and her two-month-old baby. I am terrified for her, terrified that something horrible will happen.

K. later says that he suspected something like that would happen. Walking into the courtroom, he could see a lot of competing gang colors and he muttered, "Gangbanger day." The problem, he explains, is that these gang members get arrested for tangling with one another, are detained in separate cells, and then are brought together again for the first time in front of the judge. The hostilities from the initial encounter erupt again as they are forced to share the same space. Margaret, Anne, and I go to lunch in Chinatown. The whole incident makes for an energetic conversation, but I am still shaken as if I had been in a riot. The palpable and contagious confusion and fear, scary and exhilarating simultaneously, is like little I've experienced before.

Court Appearance 4

A new day, a new courtroom! Branch 46 is clearly of a more recent vintage. The rooms are smaller and carpeted; there seems to be some sort of central heating and cooling system. The benches are still uncomfortable, but the overall ambience is no longer one of southern decrepitude but 1970s efficiency. We have a new judge now. He lets us know that he is in charge by coming to the bench for the 9:30 opening of the day at 10:15. In the meantime, we have been sitting in relative silence, stomachs growling. Margaret and her baby have made it through the gang fight. Our attitude is characterized by a sense of renewal and optimism. Maybe it's the orange carpeting.

The judge finally appears, and our case gets called up. The purpose of this visit is unclear to me; we were supposed to go to trial today, but the defense claims they're not ready because they have not yet completed their investigation of the witnesses (that would be us). When the state's attorney (our fourth representative) points out that the previous branch has set the trial date for today, the new judge growls, "No branch judge sets my trial dates for me." The massive court calendar gets hauled out, and the defense lawyer, knowing full well that we are students and are likely to be out of town for the Christmas break, asks for December 27. Naturally that date is impossible. We settle instead on January 17. When asked by the state's attorney if the defense will be ready for trial, the defense lawyer hems and haws so much that the judge finally says, "We'll leave it open."

Court Appearance 5

Summer turns to fall, which turns to winter. Today is one of the most exciting and disturbing days yet. Our entourage is joined by a new face face, an attorney for Peoples Gas. She appears because the defense has subpoenaed the masturbator's former supervisor, for reasons that we don't understand, so Peoples Gas is now officially involved. We are called before the judge reasonably early, again being near the top of the call because the masturbator has a private attorney; however disgusting this attorney may be, he is still afforded certain privileges for having completed his law school correspondence course. Before we go in there we suspect that something is going to happen, because this lawyer actually says to us, as we're entering the courtroom, that it is "nothing personal."

The "nothing personal" is anything but. We stand in front of the judge for our supposed trial and listen to this defense attorney file three motions, the fact that he's filing them on the morning of the trial gives us reason to believe that this whole thing is not going to be wrapped up this January day. The first motion is a request to subpoena any psychiatric records that any of us might possess. The reason given for this is both ludicrous and highly public: the defense attorney states that "in a conversation with a colleague [that is, the fake lawyer from back in July], these women exhibited behavior that suggested that they suffered from a psychiatric disorder." I'm mortified. Standing up there, in an open courtroom, surrounded by our arresting officer, a Chicago police officer, the various representatives of Peoples Gas, and numerous strangers involved in domestic disputes of some type, we are being called out for suffering from a psychiatric disorder! What would this psychiatric disorder be? "Doctor, everywhere I look, I see penises . . . " "Doctor, there is a man who follows me around masturbating. . ." And what possible disorder could afflict all three of us? Mass hysteria? Fear or hatred of men engendered at women's colleges, which we all attended? Uncontrollable sexual desires? We are standing inches away from a man who masturbates and exposes himself in broad daylight on private property in the presence of women, and our psychiatric health is becoming the issue? It's unbelievable to me.

The judge responds to this request by telling the defense attorney that if he can give the court something specific that he is looking for in our psychiatric records, he'll grant the subpoena. The judge will not, however, allow any "fishing expeditions." (Whether the University of Chicago would respond to a subpoena turns out to be another matter.)

The second motion filed is an attempt to suppress the tape that was made when Betsy originally called in an identification of the masturbator. Because it went to a central University of Chicago police dispatching center, there is a recording of the conversation in which Betsy describes the masturbator and our location. The defense is now claiming that the information she gave to the dispatcher regarding the masturbator s physical description is so wildly inaccurate that it should be dismissed as identification. If the defense succeeds in getting it suppressed, it means that our initial identification of this man is invalid, and one can guess that his arrest would subsequently be declared invalid as well. The specter of this tape has been haunting us since we heard about it at the previous court appearance. Since Betsy has left Chicago, Anne and I don't even know what is actually on the tape, and we don't know what description she offered of the guy. We've repeatedly asked to listen to the tape, but no one can ever seem to find, or bother to find, any tape player.

The third motion n the defense is filing concerns the actual arrest of the masturbator. He was arrested by a University of Chicago policeman, several blocks from the campus proper. Every University of Chicago student is aware of the special privileges granted by the city to the U. of C. police force: within a certain limited area, which encompasses Hyde Park and Kenwood, the University force has police powers. They can make arrests, they can write speeding tickets (if they want to), they respond to Chicago police calls that come over their radio. Often, because the force is quite large, they are the first to respond to calls for assistance in Hyde Park, arriving before the city cops do. The officer who arrested the masturbator in the first place is, in addition, a Chicago police officer who moonlights as a U. of C. officer. The defense claims that because arrest took place outside of campus property the U. of C. officer had no legal right to make the arrest. As with the identification tape, if the arrest is invalid the case can be easily dismissed.

To us this seems a minor point. Once the judge has the city ordinance in front of him that states the powers of the University of Chicago police, this motion will be readily and easily taken care of. Since we know that this information will somehow get the appropriate channels, we are concerned instead with the psychiatric records request. These motions are filed; the judge rules on the records request (if the defense can provide something specific, he'll allow it) and sets a date for a hearing on the other two motions. The judge orders us to return on March 6, over the protestations of the the prancing defense attorney, who claims that he will be in "arbitration" at that time and couldn't possibly attend to both matters simultaneously. In the only proprosecution move in the entire case, the judge set the trial for March anyway.

A Week Later

We receive a call telling us that the trial has been rescheduled. The state's attorney's office will let us know when we need to appear in court again.

Several Weeks Later

In the ensuing time, I start to think that the university should know what exactly is going on, since many of their administrative practices--the question of accessibility of psychiatric records, the powers of the campus police force--are being called into question. I go first to talk to our dean, the dean of the division of the humanities. He is extraordinarily sympathetic and regales me with tales of his own court cases. His apartment in Hyde Park was robbed, and the police caught the guy blocks from the dean's apartment, still carrying his property. The guy had a "record as long as your arm." Nonetheless, the case lasted for more than a year and involved numerous court appearances, same as ours. The dean gives me the appropriate numbers to call for the university counsel and the director of the Student Mental Health and Resource Service. He also suggests that I call the South East Chicago Commission, a community-service-type group that helps residents of the neighborhoods around the university wend

their way- through- the court system.

A call to the Student Mental Health and Resource Service informs me that indeed, our records had been requested; what's more, they were requested back in December, before this attorney had even filed his motion to obtain them. The director of the health service says that under no circumstances would these records be released. They are so confidential that the director will not even tell me if any of us have records there. Apparently these records are protected by an Illinois mental health law, making it impossible that they might ever become public. Somewhat cheered by this fact, Anne and I make an appointment with one of the university's lawyers to discuss the territoriality issue.

The university counsel is a nice, somewhat distracted guy. He is very reassuring to us. At this point, he doesn't seem too concerned about the territoriality issue. Apparently this point is rarely challenged, and when it is the university prevails. He doesn't feel that it's necessary to talk to the head of campus security, and he assures us that we shouldn't worry about this particular point. He explains the mental health confidentiality law and tells us that the university makes it a policy to never release these records. I tell him that I don't mind if these records are released to the defense attorney; as far as I know none of us have anything to hide, and we don't really care about some nonexistent records falling into the wrong hands. The university lawyer flatly tells us that they will do no such thing. It sets a bad precedent, even if the records are released with our consent. Like the dean, he suggests that we call the South East Chicago Commission.

Later that day I contact this South East Chicago Commission, a nebulous operation with university money behind it. Something of an advocacy group, the commission will send people to accompany victims to court and explain exactly what is happening regarding their cases. The organization keeps careful crime statistics for Hyde Park and Kenwood that are published weekly in the University of Chicago newspaper. I speak to a man we'll affectionately come to call "Tuff Guy Bob," a former Chicago police officer and former University of Chicago police officer. He says that he is familiar with the case, as the South East Chicago Commission receives reports of all the criminal and legal activity within Hyde Park. He also is generally reassuring and tells us that he's never heard of such an absurd process for such a simple case. He also agrees to accompany us to court and provide whatever assistance he can.

March 1995

We're not entirely sure what's happening at this point. Tuff Guy Bob calls me at work to ask why we didn't contact him about the hearing that had been scheduled for the previous day. Unfortunately, we knew nothing of this hearing. Bob had received a report on it from the University of Chicago officer who had attended; there was nothing in the report to indicate what went on, but we are extremely nervous that the whole thing was dismissed because we weren't notified and thus didn't show up (inadvertently sending "the wrong message"). Throughout this whole process, we have been ready to give up at every step. We have missed numerous days of work, we get dressed up to sit in a roomful of people who clearly have little respect for the law, whatever that is; our psychological health has been called into question by a little man who walks on his toes. We are forced to sit and stand within inches of a man who willfully exposed himself to us a year ago; and we receive subtle pressure from Peoples Gas, which wants to believe that they fired this man for good reason, to continue. The humor has run out of the situation, as has the novelty of the experience. It is difficult to maintain the zealousness with which we originally pursued the action; we now approach a court date as if it were a dentistry appointment or a menstrual period.

Court Appearance 6

Spring has sprung, and on May 8 we are back in court again. Margaret, who is taking her comprehensive exams (a grueling three-day qualifying routine) in a matter of weeks, has decided to sit out the rest of the trial. Out of four initial victims, only Anne and I remain. We have learned to be prepared to occupy ourselves for these court days, and we have also learned to bring something unobtrusive to nibble on as morning drags on into afternoon. So we show up, along with our coterie of advocates, Peoples Gas people, and sympathetic arresting officers. Officer K. from the Chicago Police Department is nice enough to wear the Christmas tie that we got him as a thank-you gift. Instead of his usual animated Disney characters, he now sports a modified version of Seurat's Grande Jatte from the Art Institute. We somehow thought it would be appropriate.

We had foolishly believed that this case could not be more mishandled than it was in the previous 13 months, but unfortunately we were wrong. When our case is called, the judge reasonably decides to handle the motion to quash the arrest first. If the arrest is ruled invalid there's really no reason to consider any of the other motions, since an invalid arrest can basically mean that there is no defendant to stand trial. We are officially on our sixth state's attorney, who has spent a total of two minutes talking to us about this case. Despite her inattention we are relatively hopeful, because we understand the rule about the University of Chicago police and its powers. At least we think we do.

The motion is officially read, and we are sworn in. The court clerk settles back with a Stephen King novel to while away the time. The defense lawyer calls the masturbator to testify. We have been expecting this; as we were waiting for the case to be called we noticed the defense attorney hand a typed page of questions and answers to the masturbator. The masturbator testifies that he was picked up at 53rd Street and Ellis Avenue, and that it was a strictly residential neighborhood. We groan, as does Officer K. Anyone who knows Hyde Park knows that there is a block-large hospital complex on that corner--"so big it'll bite ya in the butt," as K. later says. On he other hand, the hospital complex is in fact the Chicago Osteopathic Hospital, which has no connection to the university. The hospital's existence is a piece of truth that won't help either side, and it is never brought out. The defense claims that the masturbator was arrested off university property, which is in fact true. The real question is whether or not the university police can make arrests off campus, not whether the masturbator was picked up on campus. I remain convinced that at our side can handle this.

The state's attorney then calls the U. of C. arresting officer to testify. He establishes that he is both a University of Chicago cop and a Chicago cop. He establishes that the arrest was made off campus, but only after some misinformation is given. The U. of C. cop claims that he was flagged down by three of us, which was not true. Luckily, he then changes his mind and says, no, it was only one girl who flagged him down (it was actually myself and Margaret, but again this piece of truth would only confuse the issue). The state's attorney asks him if anyone in this courtroom flagged him down, and he points at me, asking me what my name is. Like a fool, I answer him. The judge then jumps down my throat, yelling, "This is not an open forum. You were not addressed by me, nor by counsel. Don't say a word unless you are instructed to answer a question by me or by counsel!" All my fear-of-authority nightmares are now officially being realized. I shrink back, half angry and half terrified, and watch this case disintegrate.

The U. of C. officer is apparently not familiar with the city statue that gives him arresting power within Hyde Park, and neither the state's attorney nor the judge is familiar with it either. For those of us who recognize what is going on, it's a painful sight. Tuff Guy Bob is practically steaming. The U. of C. officer muddles through the rest of his testimony, not being asked good questions and not providing very good answers. I expect a ruling at the conclusion of his testimony, but then for some reason I am called to testify.

I have no idea what I could possibly offer. The state's attorney starts to lead me through the entire incident, which even I think is irrelevant to the validity of the masturbator's arrest. Nonetheless I attempt to answer her questions over the the vehement objections of the defense attorney. The judge and the defense attorney perform an antiphon of "Objection . . . Sustained." Every objection is sustained. The defense attorney is so confident with his objections that at one point he actually says, "Objection sustained" instead of merely "Objection." The courtroom laughs. My face burns. Finally the judge saves me from this purgatory by reprimanding me for giving out all these irrelevant facts that I am being asked about by our state's attorney. Face still burning, I sit down.

At this point the direction is clear. The state's attorney has not offered this city ordinance as a foundation for her argument regarding the motion. Officer K. valiantly jumps up when I am finished and says to the state's attorney, "Did I hear you call me to testify?" Clearly he is hoping to get up there and straighten this mess out, but the state's attorney misses the cue and says, "No, we don't need to hear from you." Dumb, dumb! With this, the state rests. It has not mentioned the city ordinance; it has not offered any evidence besides the fact that the university arresting officer is also a Chicago cop.

As it happens, though, I have misunderstood the direction of this whole thing. When the judge begins to tender his decision, it appears that the central question to him is whether or not a Chicago cop is always a cop. Police officers are apparently sworn in for duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week, even when they are on vacation or out for a beer with their friends. As Chicago cops, they have the power to arrest even when off duty. This is the point that the judge is interested in: Is a Chicago cop who is hired by a private entity still a cop with the same powers? With this question in mind, the judge rules in the negative for us. In other words, he decides that a Chicago cop is not an official cop when he is acting as a private citizen employed by a private company, which the university is. I recognize now that we have lost. Somewhat relieved, I still know that this was an easily winnable argument for us and that our side totally botched it. The judge rules that the arrest was in fact invalid.

After the ruling there is a recess an Tuff Guy Bob explodes out into the hallway, bringing the state's attorney with him. He has in his wallet a copy of the city ordinance that gives the university police its powers; he also is furious that a precedent has been set wherein a judge has the right to decide when a Chicago police officer can act as a police officer and when he can't. After much fluttering around and various phone calls and faxes regarding this ordinance, we troop back into the courtroom for the second part of the case. The judge is clearly in the mood to dismiss the case because of the invalid arrest, but the state's attorney works hard to convince him to reconsider his ruling on the motion. She promises to research the issue and present a new response on this point, which Tuff Guy Bob has offered to help her with in the interim We are given another court date to go over this motion again. We will be back on May 19.

Court Appearance 7

The day is clear- and bright, perfect weather for the "Reconsideration -of the Motion to Dismiss" hearing. Our case is mercifully getting called early in the day now, so that we can almost always be assured of being out of here by noon, and today is no exception. When we arrive at the courtroom the state's attorney, who luckily is the same one we had last time, pulls us back into a nether-chamber to talk to her. This is a milestone for us, as it is the first time since the case began that we've spoken to a state's attorney for any length of time. She keeps trying to explain to us what is happening, but we assure her that we understand. She goes over the plan of the day, and we feel relatively confident that she knows what is going on and what she is going to do about it. This feeling is reinforced by a visit from the supervisor of the state's attorneys, who sticks her head in the conference room and tries to take stock of the situation. She is extremely self-possessed, gives good advice, and leaves quickly. Her mere presence convinces us that this absurd 14-month case is finally getting some of the attention it deserves. Not because the crime was so heinous or because we are so important, but because the ridiculousness of the situation is not making anyone look good.

We then file back into the courtroom for the case to be called, along with our groupies. There's a new addition, too. It turns out that the masturbator has filed a civil suit against Peoples Gas for wrongful dismissal, a case that an outside firm is handling for Peoples Gas; and now a representative from this firm is appearing at the court dates and sitting at the front of the room taking notes. This brings our total up to seven, not counting myself and Anne: the U. of C. officer, the Chicago police officer, Tuff Guy Bob, the Peoples Gas supervisor, the Peoples Gas customer service/community relations guy, the lawyer from Peoples Gas, and now this outside counsel. The masturbator's team has grown too, as a new attorney is present with the old one. The new attorney seems slightly more subdued and less full of smirks. He ominously carries around a cardboard box, inside of which is the pair of pants that the masturbator was supposedly wearing on that day. These pants have been haunting us for quite a while, and we hope the pants will soon make their appearance.

This entire process all begins to make a little more sense to us once we find out that the masturbator has filed a civil lawsuit against Peoples Gas. He is unwilling to plead guilty to this relatively minor offense in the pantheon of crime--to do so would blow his chances of winning the civil suit, which undoubtedly involves some considerable amount of money. There is no other reason why Peoples Gas would be so faithfully and avidly following this. For a while we were convinced that this guy was really sick and just adamantly refused to believe that he could have done such a thing; his denials were so vehement and consistent. Of course, now we know better.

We settle in to hear this motion to quash the arrest argued, successfully we hope. Once the state's attorney begins speaking, though, we realize that the signs at not good. The argument she presents is the state statue that limits university security forces to a university's campus. This is apparently a well-known and extremely benign statute, which says nothing more than that university cops can basically do what they want on their own campuses. If anything, it totally blows our case. The state's attorney actually reads this statute aloud in front of the e judge while the defense attorney continues to smirk. He is at least bright enough to recognize that this isn't much of an argument (except for his side, of course). Tuff Guy Bob next to us starts to squirm and sigh, and we don't blame him. All of his work two weeks ago to get the appropriate materials to the state's attorney has apparently come to naught. She stumbles through this argument, while our seven interested parties shake their heads. It is ridiculous to have this thing dismissed for this reason! The judge is still not aware of the city ordinance, and the state's attorney is doing nothing to inform him of it.

There are a few sidebar moments, in which we can't hear what's going on, but the gist of it is clear--we have lost this battle, for the second time. In making his ruling, the judge says, "Contrary to popular belief, the University of Chicago does not own Hyde Park. As such, all of Hyde Park is not the university's property, and thus this arrest, made by a campus police officer off of the campus, is not valid." He clearly has a bone to pick with the university, something else that we have been fighting this whole way through. There is a brief recess in which our groupies fall in on the state's attorney and try to figure out why she didn't present the city ordinance; she now claims that this judge knew about the ordinance and has ruled, in essence, that the state statute supersedes the city ordinance. The defense lawyer continues to smirk, and he shakes the masturbator's hand.

We can't believe what she's telling us; how can the judge rule that the state statute overrules the city ordinance when he hasn't even been presented with the city ordinance? What kind of argument is that? Is this case going to be dismissed because the arrest, which was valid, has been judged invalid? On the latter point, at least, she has an answer--she has cases she can cite in which prosecution continued of arrested people even if the arrest was declared invalid. For example, obliterating the arrest is significant only if there is evidence of some sort (statements, drugs, guns, whatever) obtained as the result of that arrest. This evidence then forms the basis of the state's case, and if the evidence was obtained illegally then it can't be used and thus the prosecution has no case. In our case, however, nothing was "recovered" from the arrest, and the case continues to be based upon the testimony of four, then three, now two eyewitnesses.

The state's attorney confers with her supervisor on this point, and the supervisor agrees that continuing to argue the case is the best route to follow. Hopefully, by the time of a trial this arrest thing will be sorted out. Egg on our face, we file back into the courtroom after this explosive recess to appear again before the judge. Predictably, the defense argues that the case should be dismissed. The attorney compares the situation to Paula Jones's accusations of harassment by President Clinton. I am not quite sure what the analogy is supposed to mean, but it has something to do with the fact that Jones made a public accusation about a man who could not appear in court to defend himself; her accusations were thus much more dangerous because Clinton never had an appropriate forum in which to respond to her claims. I see no connection between us and the masturbator, who has now been in a public forum to defend himself seven times. The defense attorney struggles draw out the analogy but fails. Not even the judge understands where he's going with it.

The defense lawyer also presents the argument that if there was no valid arrest, then there is no defendant. "There is no body!" he keeps shouting. This remark is cause for a quick recess on our side, as the Peoples Gas attorney suggests that the sheriffs present in the courtroom rearrest the masturbator right here and now to make it stick. Everyone silently agrees that this is a ridiculous suggestion, and the state's attorney proceeds with the no-evidence-recovered argument. It is not working; she hands him a Xerox of the particular case she's citing, and his impatience with her is palpable. "What does this have to do with anything?" he asks her. "This is not even close to relevant to the issues were discussing here!" She asks him to reconsider; he declines. He is on the verge of dismissing the charges--hopefully not on the basis of the Paula Jones analogy--when the supervisor of all the state's attorneys comes in a side door and places herself directly behind the state's attorney. She whispers a few well-placed words into the state's attorney's ear and then sits down at the prosecution's table. No sign could have been both more subtle and obvious at the same time. Her presence signifies to the judge that something is going on here, that this simple misdemeanor indecency case has somehow attracted the attention of the superiors at Branch 46. Her presence also probably says to the judge, "Be careful. Were watching you."

Whatever the reasons, the judge shuts his mouth and then asks to see the previously unheeded and irrelevant case that the state's attorney has provided. The defense starts to object and the judge says, "To what?" The defense attorney blathers around and the judge disgustedly shakes his head. Our only common ground with this judge is a mutual hatred of the defense attorney. Looking at the supervisor of the state's attorneys the whole time, the judge says, "Look, you know I dont have the power to dismiss cases. Continuation to 8 June when the other motions will be considered."

On the way home, Tuff Guy Bob can't stop talking about this judge's ruling. The ramifications are deadly. First, this ruling invalidates literally thousands of arrests that the university police has made over the years, arrests made for crimes as benign as public indecency and unruly behavior and as volatile as rape, carjacking, robbery, and assault. Second, the ruling (in combination with the judge's statements regarding the initial ruling) sets a precedent for judicial decisions regarding the role of a police officer. The door is now open for any judge to decide when a cop is acting in his capacity as a cop and when he is taking those privileges for granted and abusing them. Tuff Guy Bob swears that this judge will now be blackballed by the Fraternal Order of Police. He already is starting to organize the police union in his head. He knows that the university will be very upset with this particular judge. He thinks what we witnessed today is big.

Court Appearance 8

Yes, Tuff Guy Bob was right. What happened three weeks ago was big. So big that representatives of the University of Chicago prepared materials for the state's attorney's office. So big that some phone calls were made by Jack O'Malley, graduate of the University of Chicago Law School and resident of Hyde Park. So big that there was a powwow between the state's attorney's office, the University of Chicago counsel, and the head of the South East Chicago Commission. When we are called up in front of the judge, the state's attorney presents him and the defense team with a novel-size brief regarding this issue of jurisdiction. The smirking lawyer steps back and his partner stands in front of the judge and systematically withdraws every motion that the defense has thrown up as a roadblock. The subpoena for psychiatric records is dropped; the identification tape is dropped; the jurisdiction issue is dropped. We are now ready to go to trial. The defense and the prosecution agree to a bench, rather than a jury, trial, despite the defense's repeated requests for a jury trial. Now that the big guns have been drawn, their options are limited. We are now working with two supervisory state's attorneys and two assistant state's attorneys. Our trial date is scheduled for June 14.

Court Appearance 9

The day of the trial is finally here, and just in time. I am leaving tomorrow for a trip to California; by the time I return Anne, the only other extant witness, will have left to spend a year in Paris. If this is not wrapped up today I will be the only one left, and as Tuff Guy Bob keeps reminding us, "one person's word again another's" is a difficult proposition to win a case with. Our case, certainly weaker than it was year ago, will fall apart if we do not go to trial today. And I hardly relish the prospect of doing this alone, or at least alone in the sense of being a witness. Of course, I still have seven other people interested in both my welfare as a witness and the outcome of the case.

By now we are spending very little time in the actual courtroom. Generally when we arrive we are ushered into a jury deliberation room, a windowless, cramped spot with an empty jug in the middle of a large table and an adjoining bathroom through whose door it is possible to hear each and every sound being made within. I have to go to the bathroom but am far too self-conscious to do so. Self-consciousness does not stop anyone else, however, and our conferences are punctuated by the noises coming from the bathroom: shuffle, unzip, pee, shuffle, rustle, flush, wash, dry.

We are here early in order to prepare our testimony and go over some photos that the defense lawyers have taken of the scene. I also am forced to review the transcripts of earlier testimony, in which my various humiliations at the hands of the judge are committed to print. Our female state's attorney's partner runs us through our testimony: how far away were we? what kind of day was it? how could we see him? what time did this happen? what did you do next? did he have a hole in his pants? what hand was he using? how long were we actually looking at him? what happened the second time? how was he identified by us? did we pick him out of a lineup? did we have to deliberate or talk among ourselves in order to identify him, or was there mutual and simultaneous agreement?

These latter questions speak to the issue of identification. We saw him after he was apprehended in what is called a "show-up." I understand this to mean that the circumstances of his display were enough to suggest guilt to us: he was brought to us in the back of a police car and was shown to us in handcuffs. The car and the handcuffs could have influenced our belief that the e university had arrested the right man, regardless of whether or not he was the right man. The state's attorney is concerned that this will be a major hurdle, so we have to step carefully around the question of the "show-up." What works in our favor on this point is that he was picked up within ten minutes of the second sighting; the elapsed time was negligible.

After at least two hours of these questions, the state's attorney all the while scribbling away and various supervisors poking their heads in the door to see how it's going, we actually make it to the courtroom, get sworn in, and prepare to testify. Our coterie leaves the jury room and takes its place on the benches. It's pretty simple, really: the state will call me, Anne, and then the University of Chicago police officer. Then the defense will call the masturbator. We have been told that this will take less than half an hour. I get called first, and the other witnesses go back into the windowless room with instructions not to speak to each other about their respective testimony.

I am nervous and am speaking so softly that I eventually have to move and stand right next to the court stenographer so she can get down what I'm saying. She looks bored, and the clerk is still reading the same Stephen King book he had weeks ago. I try not to look at the judge because of our prior relationship of humiliation and degradation. Instead I concentrate on the state's attorney and on trying to speak in complete sentences. One thing I've noticed from reviewing the transcripts is that far from being articulate and clear, my sentences trail off and don't make a lot of sense. Anne's favorite line, which she describes as "poetry," is my earlier testimony "It was afternoon, sunny day." The state's attorney asks me what I had expected he would from our run-through earlier this morning, although we are prohibited by the judge from talking about the second exposure incident because none of the official "counts" or "charges" is based on it. The state's attorney is trying to prove that the second incident speaks to "intent" rather than accident, but the judge will not allow it.

Q. You said he was masturbating; describe in detail.

A. I saw the defendant with his hand on his penis and he was moving--his hand was moving.

Q. His hand was moving?

A. Yes.

Q. In what type of fashion?

A. Rapidly.

***

Q. After you said you saw him masturbating and could you tell where his penis withdrew from?

A. It appeared to be from his zipper area.

***

I don't really understand the defense's cross-examination. The smarmy lawyer has stepped back and let his partner do the questioning, and all throughout my testimony I have been distracted by what he is writing on his legal pad: "west," "smoking," "8 to 10 feet." This latter "8 to 10 feet" was the cause of considerable glee between the defense attorneys; at was underlined and boxed, and the two attorneys kept exchanging smiles and glances. The first line of cross examination seems to focus on the smoking.

Q. Ms. Hogan, at the time you were standing outside of the art center and you mentioned you were smoking?

A. Yes.

Q. And were any of the other two women you were with smoking also?

A. I don' don't believe so.

***

Q. If you were smoking at the time was there any difficulty [seeing] as a result of your cigarette smoke?

A. No, we were outside.

The absurdity of these particular points seems to have escaped them.

They then show me some pictures of the scene that have been manipulated fairly unskillfully. On a bright day they have used a flash that entirely obscures the figure standing behind the glass in their little re-created scene, and I am careful to point this out. They want me to draw, with a Magic Marker, the location where we were standing in front of the doors, which I do. I know that they are gearing up to something because they ask me repeatedly how far away we were from the masturbator. I continue to answer "eight to ten feet." Finally, their defense emerges: "What if I were to tell you, Miss Hogan, that the location you have circled on the photo is not 8 feet from the doors, and not 10 feet from the doors, but 12 feet from the doors!" The state's attorney throws up his hands and makes a noise from his lips. The smarmy defense attorney objects for some reason. Since he has just objected to his own partner's statement, the courtroom begins to laugh, as does the judge. I respond, "Ten feet, 12 feet . . ." but the smarmy defense lawyer is still hot to object, and he does so saying, "Objection. That at was not the testimony. It was eight to ten feet." Everyone knows this is going nowhere, and I finish up and return to the jury room.

We are not allowed to hear each other's, nor the defendant's, testimony. Anne's testimony, according to the transcripts, is similar to mine.

Q. What did you first notice about the defendant when you first saw him?

A. That he was exposed.

Q. And you say exposed?

A. His penis was exposed.

Q. What else did you notice?

A. And he was masturbating.

Q. Where was his hand?

A. On his penis.

***

Q. And what did he do with his hands?

A. I saw motions going back and forth.

Anne will tell me that they harped a lot on on her glasses, asking "How long have you been wearing those glasses? Were you wearing those glasses at the time of the alleged incident?" Anne felt like answering, "Oh no. At the time of the incident I was wearing my other glasses that have little penises painted on the inside of them." They don't get very far with Anne, nor with the University of Chicago officer.

The pants apparently do make an appearance in the defense's case. Despite all their efforts to prove that our identification of the defendant was faulty, they drop that as a defense and concentrate on the "hole -theory," namely that the defendant had just discovered a hole in his pants and was adjusting himself when we saw him.

Q. Do you recognize this object I placed on the table?

A. Yes, jeans that I wore.

Q. Now, can you describe to the court what is in the crotch area?

A. A tear.

Q. And what did you do with that tear?

A. Well, I tried to adjust my underwear and they didn't feel right in my pants and noting that there was a tear in the pants and I didnt want to expose myself in any way if I was to sit down.

Q. How did you feel about the hole?

A. Very uncomfortable.

Q. How did you adjust your pants?

A. And I pulled my pants by the crotch of my pants to adjust my underwear.

Cross examination:

Q. What type of underwear were you wearing?

A. I don't know.

Q. Boxer or briefs?

A. And I wear both.

Q. Sometimes you wear boxers and sometimes you wear briefs?

A. Yes.

Q. And you had time to put away these pants in case you went to trial. How did you preserve them?

A. My attorney asked me.

Q. And your underwear?

A. No.

This was a fabulous piece of luck for us, because two hours ago the Peoples Gas attorney had given the state's attorney their paper trail regarding this case, and the trail included a memo about a conference among various supervisors and the masturbator. When Peoples Gas had asked the masturbator about this incident, he had had claimed he had hole in his pants that he'd discussed with his wife that morning. Now in court he claimed that he had just discovered it when our paths crossed. The state's attorney brilliantly remembered this point, and the discrepancy apparently was enough to totally undermine the masturbator's credibility.

Q. And do you recall in that meeting with Mr. Goetz on April 13, 1994, that you did realize the small tear in the crotch in your jeans and you and your wife thought it was not necessary to change pants and stated you did a lot of walking and the hole got bigger during the day. Do you recall that?

A. Never occurred to me.

Defense: Objection to counsel showing the statement to the defendant.

State: Look, he signed it!

We weren't there, but supposedly it was a beautiful moment.

We are allowed to come back in for the closing arguments; the defense goes first. Their closing argument, delivered by the smarmy attorney, is some vague diatribe on sexual discrimination: "All you have to do today in America is accuse a man of sexual perversion, some sort of sexual act, and he is doomed. He is doomed. And that is all you have to do is make an accusation today in 1990 [sic], and that is it."

He also dances around the facts of the case:

"There is a problem with distances in this case. Erin Hogan guessed between 8 to 10 feet and then she stated 12 feet . . . which is it? We have a reasonable explanation and reasonable explanation creates enough doubt that it has or speculates just enough . . . and no masturbation and no movement of the hands. He was reasonably adjusting his pants and just telling you up front, judge, nothing to hide. All he was doing was adjusting the pants and that is it.- . . . All of a sudden my client is walking at 54th and Greenwood, not the University of Chicago, and picked up by a University of Chicago police, taken to the police station and shown to three witnesses and they say 'Yes, that is the guy masturbating.' And he loses his job and his life basically has changed. And I ask for not guilty at this point."

He compares the whole thing to a Kafka story, but he doesn't really address any of our points, at least not as far as we can tell.

For our side it is a recitation of the facts and then a brief editorial about the defenses that the masturbator's side tried to advance. First they claimed that the wrong guy was picked up ("There is no dispute that he is standing there along the art center and [we] spent all the time to identify him and what does that do except corroborate the ability to proceed"); then they admitted that he was at the scene but with a hole in his pants discovered on the spot, which was later shown not to be the case. The state's attorney speaks to our credibility ("It is a case of identification and not a case of imagining something . . . two eyewitnesses seeing something, able to identify something and after seeing him a short time later--about an hour--and stating that's the person they saw masturbating. Not zipped up out of the hole, not a hole in the bottom. . . . [He couldn't] explain what Erin Hogan said and Anne said [of] a moving hand rapidly back and forth and exposed his penis and that he was identified. And now we know beyond all doubt ").

The judge sits back and finds the defendant guilty on two counts of public indecency. The masturbator is sentenced to supervision, which is then suspended. No fine, no time, no psychological evaluation. The conclusion of the case winds up being as anticlimactic as the initial incident.

It may not be world peace, and it may not be the O.J. Simpson trial, but it has been an instructive and important experience for us. Would we do it again? Definitely not. We make a pact later the same day that if we ever see a man masturbating we will laugh and move on. The resolution took nine court appearances and more than a year. We were humiliated and bullied, and only near the end did we receive the attention that could have wrapped this thing up in a matter of days. I recognize -that this is was a misdemeanor case, but I have no doubt that the problems that plagued our minor or case also plague the larger, more important cases, and that fact is something we should be aware of.

Because of this experience, the masturbators of the world have little to fear from us. Smarmy defense attorneys, however, are another matter.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Peter Hannan.

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