Op-Ed: Erotica at the Emporium

Well, at least now we know why they call it the Pleasure Emporium.

I hope you like that line because it’s the only humor that you will find in this column.

Very simply, the 13 arrests two weeks ago of men in the gay wing of a Hollywood theater showing porn were discriminatory, disgraceful and very possibly, illegal.

First, the emerging evidence is suggesting that law enforcement targeted gay venues only. In other words, there was no attempt to target straight men or women, only gay men.

Second, if cops are seeking to control criminal activity they find offensive, you don’t use words to induce, create and perpetuate the activity which is illegal. That is entrapment, where people who otherwise would have done nothing wrong wind up doing something improper only because they were solicited to do so by the very people there to insure what you did was not happening to begin with.

Third, to further aggravate the matter, undercover cops in this case acted inappropriately. If you see someone robbing a bank, you arrest them engaged in the act right then and there on the spot. You don’t follow them home and wait for them to pour a celebratory glass of wine. Hollywood police must have missed that class in the academy.

Discovery documents received by defendants from the prosecutor’s office (the State Attorney), have now revealed that the undercover cops were not only encouraging selected patrons to masturbate, they allowed the sexual acts to go on until ejaculation.

Hollywood cops did not make arrests when the suspects pulled down their pants exposing themselves. That’s an alleged violation of the law right there.  They waited for the men to ejaculate. 

That is unheard of. 

Frankly, it makes me wonder who was getting pleasured. That is disgraceful.

What’s even more illuminating is that the genesis for this investigation was an anonymous citizen complainant who wrote repeatedly to the police department to demand the activity be curtailed. Now mind you this good citizen whistleblower was only able to communicate this to the police because he admitted he made at least three, maybe more, return trips to the premises, such a Good Samaritan was he.

I can only guess how difficult it was for him to return so often to a place that offended him so much. Maybe he thought they would be reading chapters of Deuteronomy in the theaters. 

Our friends at the Herald treated this cataclysmic legal event like a plane crash or terroristic attack. The accused defendants all had their pictures posted online. Might be nice if they did that for reckless drivers who endanger your lives or suspects who break into your home and burglarize them, you know, like felons - but to shine a light on guys who play with themselves in a dark theater set up to show porn for that purpose? I mean, really. 

These accused men did not hijack a plane or hold up a bank. So why humiliate them?

SFGN has now also learned that Hollywood police have been busy beavers. It seems they have quietly made a half dozen other arrests at the same place in February. So we have to ask why, but we already know their answers. We have been listening to the same bullshit for years. 

Police are going to say they were only investigating anonymous tips of “lewd activity,” and they must investigate all leads. No, they don’t. That’s a lie. Just as a newspaper has to choose what stories to write, so too do police agencies have to choose how to deploy their limited assets.

In an age and era where gun violence is rampant and terrorism abounds, police manpower needs to be directed elsewhere.

A wiser and more sophisticated police agency might have called the owners of the establishment first and invited them to reign in nuisance activity that some customers find offensive. 

Hollywood police did not.

Of course, the establishment has a corresponding duty to police themselves. But you know what the police could have also done? Blame the business – not the customers for doing in a dark theater what they were invited to do anyway. 

A wiser police agency might also have told the secret informant if the place bothers him so much, stop going back. 

The Emporium is a popular entrepreneurial business with multiple venues that has an interest in obeying the law. It is also generating income for the city and apparently a lot of joy for their customers. Work with them, not against them.

If law enforcement decides it wants to universally enforce laws against lewdness and exposure of sexual organs, then they can’t be allowed to create those crimes first and commit lewd or self gratifying acts themselves. That’s unacceptable, outrageous, and oh, illegal entrapment as a matter of law. Let them go find another hobby or take their badges away. 

In the meantime, after practicing law for 43 years, here’s one piece of advice for everyone. They may show porn but they are public theaters, not pubic ones. So if you pull it out, look out, because homophobia happens - and some cop somewhere somehow in some place is going to be out there looking to lock you up. They will have to settle for you.

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