Plea Bargains in Process for Boulder’s Naked Pumpkin Runners

I just returned from the arraignment hearing for the 12 people ticketed for indecent exposure on Oct. 31 during Boulder’s 10th annual Naked Pumpkin Run.

To a layperson like me, this arraignment hearing was remarkably short and opaque. But I did get more info from a defense attorney and clerk from the District Attorney’s office. Here’s where things are at with this case, so far as I understand…

Six of the 12 ticketed runners are represented by Boulder defense attorney Philip Clark. It’s unclear yet whether the other six runners arraigned today have legal counsel. However, a representative of the DA’s office is meeting with each of them today, ostensibly to discuss plea bargain options. Those discussions are private, and Clark said a public announcement in court on this case today was extremely unlikely.

Clark told me that he is trying to arrange a plea bargain for his clients, since “We believe that the indecent exposure charge is inappropriate.”

…Which is exactly the point. As I reported earlier, in Colorado an indecent exposure conviction means mandatory sex offender registration. This can seriously and perhaps permanently wreck people’s lives, careers, and finances — which seems a disproportionate punishment for people who participated in a longstanding and fun (although unofficial) annual event that involved nonsexual public nudity.

I attended the 2008 Naked Pumpkin Run as a bystander, and I witnessed the runners being ticketed by cops. Statements by Boulder police chief Mark Beckner reported in the Daily Camera indicated the police intended to use this event to posture:

“We wanted to do something before (the event) got out of hand,” said Police Chief Mark Beckner. “This was a good opportunity to enforce the law.”

As I reported earlier, the Boulder police could have issued citations for disorderly conduct. This would have been an option to “enforce the law” and publicly posture without causing disproportionate harm.

HOW TO FOLLOW UP ON THIS CASE

Before I left the courthouse, I spoke to a clerk for the Boulder County DA’s office, and she gave me guidance on how to follow up on this. She said that Deputy DA David Cheval is handling these cases for the DA’s office. Here are his duties in this capacity. Apparently concerned citizens are welcome to contact Cheval on this case — but Deputy DAs have heavy workload, and may not have time to respond to citizen requests.

Boulder County District Attorney: 303-441-3700, e-mail contact form

The clerk suggested that a more efficient way to gather information on the progress of this case would be to connect with a victim advocate in the DA’s office. Carolyn French is the director of victim services for the DA’s office. I’ll be following up with her.

I’ll post more when I learn more.

If you are involved with this case or have further information or context, please post in the comments below. Please state your name or connection to the case, or your source of information — with links, if possible.

5 thoughts on Plea Bargains in Process for Boulder’s Naked Pumpkin Runners

  1. “…in Colorado an indecent exposure conviction means mandatory sex offender registration. This can seriously and perhaps permanently wreck people’s lives, careers, and finances…”

    Even worse, the publicity associated with this case already is threatening to do this.

  2. It’s true — whenever you’re covering an issue that entails abuse of official power, you run the risk that officials may react to embarrassment by retaliating further against the people already under their thumb.

    However, saying nothing about abuse of official power carries an even greater risk — in fact, a virtual certainty — that abuse of official power will increase.

    In my own case, on this blog, I haven’t published the names of the cited streakers — because I don’t want to contribute directly to making their names findable on that front via search engines. The Daily Camera and Colorado Daily did publish their names — which is their general policy for criminal citations of adults, but which can carry significant findability consequences. (Something I wish news orgs would consider more carefully.)

    At this point, the fate of the cited runners is in the hands of the District Attorney. The DA is offering them plea bargains that would not carry mandatory sex offender registration, so it looks unlikely that the publicity thus far has hurt their cases — and it may even have helped.

    – Amy Gahran

  3. In addition to being distressed that so many legal resources and money (including tax-payer money) have been used for this situation, I’m distressed that the first of the NPRs apologized to the judge that her running that night ‘was very uncharacteristic of me’.

    What could be more joyful than making use of a late night opportunity of one of Boulder’s warmest Halloweens in decades and a festive atmosphere among one’s friends and community that, were not only _not_ offended, but _encouraging_? I remember songs in the 70s written happily about streaking and the nationwide streaker ‘craze’. Now 30 years later, young people in the US are being punished for feeling comfortable in their own skin.

    There is no link between nudity and sexual violence, in fact a number of studies have found the opposite (some examples:
    http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2372/is_3_45/ai_n29470396
    http://www.springerlink.com/content/n57661w32461t664/ ),
    so I’m even more surprised to see, in an educated population like Boulder’s, such a law linking nudity and sexual offense and to see such intolerance.

    Among western countries (including the Catholic ones), which have grown more accepting and tolerant towards nudity in time, the US is strongly an outlier growing in the opposite direction. So I’m not surprised the that charges were not dropped and so much attention to plea-bargaining the charges down. However, I’m very disappointed.

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