On January 22, 2010 a lawsuit was filed against the City of Fort Lauderdale on behalf of a man who was arrested and subsequently acquitted on charges he solicited an undercover officer for prostitution.

Attorney Russell Cormican, representing Michael Marsh of Fort Lauderdale, said undercover police went way beyond the pale when they arrested his client in the city’s Holiday Park on August 20, 2007.

On that date, Marsh said he was approached by an officer and induced to expose himself to the undercover cop. Marsh says the officer solicited him for money in exchange for sex, but that he told the officer he was looking for a date and did not want to pay for intimate contact.

At the time, a Motion to Dismiss was filed by Marsh’s attorneys, based on unlawful entrapment. In July 2008, Broward County Judge Gary Cowart ruled that all charges against Marsh should be dismissed.

In a five-page ruling, Cowart wrote: “This court finds that the defendant was entrapped as a matter of law.” Cowart said that Marsh “had no money and was only interested in a mutual date,” and that Marsh “proved that he was induced by Officer Coffin to commit these acts.”

Holiday Park and its environs had been under heavy Fort Lauderdale Police surveillance resulting from then-Mayor Jim Naugle’s crusade against alleged cruising and sex acts committed by gay men in the park and its restrooms. Police reports released at the time did not bear out Naugle’s claims.

Bruce Roberts, who was Fort Lauderdale’s police chief during the peak of Naugle’s anti-gay campaign and is now a Fort Lauderdale city commissioner, later said, “I don’t think it was as serious a situation as portended.”

After finding that it was police officers who had engaged in “inappropriate conduct” – and not Marsh – Cowart dismissed the charges. His ruling paved the way for Cormican’s lawsuit against the city.

Cormican say that his client “never should have gone to jail. No crime had ever been committed. The officers improperly targeted him, made a mistake arresting him, and now the city should pay for it. The attorney says he and Marsh attempted to resolve matters with city insurance adjustors for the past six months, but was offered only “a nominal amount” by the city.

“This embarrassed my client and was uncalled for. He is entitled to reasonable compensation,” Cormican said.

A complete story on the suit and the aftermath of Marsh’s ordeal can be found in the January 25, 2010 issue of South Florida Gay News, and can be read online.

In addition, in its inaugural issue on Monday, January 25, 2010, South Florida Gay News broke the story nationally of Hollywood, Florida police officer Mike Verduga’s dismissal from his department for being gay.

The groundbreaking story was picked up a day later, on January 26, 2010, by the Miami Herald, and then on Wednesday, January 27, 2010 by Advocate.com, Qweerty.com, and other national and international GLBT media sources.

The story can be read online.

For further information contact Cliff Dunn, South Florida Gay News.com, 954.530.4970

 


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