A Santa Monica resident is among 14 men charged with misdemeanors after a sting by Manhattan Beach police arrested 18 men for allegedly using a public restroom as a meeting place for sex.
The Manhattan Beach Police Department announced in April that it had arrested the men after six undercover sex stings at one of the city's beachfront bathrooms. During their investigation, police alleged they found holes drilled in the partitions of the bathroom stalls, graffiti depicting graphic sexual images, and men who hung out inside and outside the restroom for long periods of time.
Isauro Benivedes, Jr., 41, of Santa Monica, was charged last month with one count of looking through a hole into the interior of a bathroom using a camera or camcorder. Other men face charges that include engaging in a lewd act, solicitation and loitering to solicit, according to a Los Angeles County District Attorney spokeswoman.
Only one suspect has so far been convicted. William R. Jackson of East Sussex England has pleaded no contest to engaging in a lewd act and was ordered to serve one year of probation.
When MBPD released the men's names and booking photos in announcing the arrests, and that media (including Patch), published the men's mug shots, dates of birth and city of residence, drew protest from the leaders of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center. They contended the men, who at the time had not yet been charged, would be publically humiliated, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Darrel Cummings, the center’s chief of staff, told the paper that media should have exercised more discretion before identifying the suspects.
Naturally we don’t condone illegal activity of any kind, but these men haven’t been proven guilty and historically, charges such as those leveled against them have involved police entrapment. Publishing their photos serves no purpose other than to humiliate and destroy their lives.
The police department began its investigation after receiving tips from Los Angeles County Lifeguards who noticed that men were making frequent and prolonged trips to the restroom at Marine Avenue.
Detectives started monitoring various online chat rooms and social networking websites and reportedly found discussions about the Marine bathroom. "Based on the information gathered, MBPD learned the public restroom was being used as a meeting place for sexual activity," the department wrote in a press release.