(WB) The office of D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine has prosecuted at least 14 cases in which men have been arrested by undercover U.S. Park Police officers in Meridian Hill Park, also known as Malcolm X Park, on misdemeanor sex related charges from January through July of this year, according to Racine spokesperson David Mayorga.
Mayorga told the Washington Blade that the D.C. Attorney General’s Office, which prosecutes some D.C. misdemeanor cases and cases involving juvenile offenders, screened a total of 16 of the sex related cases in Meridian Hill Park since January.
He said the AG’s office dismissed or “no papered” one of them and another went to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for prosecution and the U.S. Attorney’s office also dismissed that case.
News about the arrests at Meridian Hill/Malcolm X Park, which is federally owned and maintained, surfaced earlier this month when the Washington Blade received reports from local attorneys who said their clients were being arrested by undercover Park Police officers who were posing as men cruising in the park for a possible sexual encounter.
Sgt. Eduardo Delgado, a Park Police spokesperson, told the Blade that Park Police officers had arrested at least 26 men since August 2018 in the park on a combination of charges, including lewd acts, disorderly conduct, and simple assault.
“Undercover plain-clothes Park Police officers entice men in Meridian Hill Park for purportedly consensual activity and then proceed to arrest their targets for a crime (often misdemeanor sexual abuse),” defense attorney John Albanes told the Blade in a statement. “The target is deceived into thinking what he is about to do is wanted,” he said. “This raises serious doubts about whether the government can prove criminal intent.”
Mayorga said that out of the 14 cases that the D.C. Office of the Attorney General has prosecuted, 11 of the arrested men were offered the option of entering a court diversion program in which they are required to perform 16 hours of community service and stay away from Meridian Hill Park. If they successfully complete the program, the government drops the charge against them.
He said another of the arrested men decided to plead guilty without entering the diversion program. Two of the other arrested men are awaiting a status hearing and their case could go to trial, he said.
According to Mayorga, a number of the cases his office is prosecuting involve Park Police officers observing men masturbating and others involve officers allegedly observing men engaging in oral sex in the park.
LGBT activists familiar with this type of arrest have said while they don’t condone public sex in places like Meridian Hill Park, most of the alleged sexual activity takes place at night in hidden places such as behind thick underbrush where the general public would not observe such activity.