Skip to comments.Rash, hysteria culprits in indecency scare
Posted on 08/04/2002 2:59:31 AM PDT by fire_eye
LAFAYETTE - No one is questioning a citizens movement to broaden a statute regulating public nudity.
But a thorough investigation has led to questions over the nature of the incident that caused the uproar in the first place. As a result, District Attorney Brad Berry is declining to prosecute Emeterio Nava-Azpera, who was arrested July 22 for public indecency.
Undersheriff Roy Kindrick said an investigation into what Nava-Azpera was doing at Lafayette Commons Park on July 15 simply did not produce evidence warranting an indictment.
But contrary to the contention of parents and citizens pressing to make it easier to prosecute people for public nudity, the case against Nava-Azpera did not fail for an inability to demonstrate a sexual arousal component.
The investigation shows he was probably not exposing himself in the first place, and that if he was, it was almost certainly inadvertent.
"He has a reasonable explanation for his behavior," Kindrick said. "We can't say we know for sure, but there is certainly very strong evidence that this was not an intentional exposure."
According to a prosecutor's memo, sent from Berry to the officers involved in the investigation, Nava-Azpera had a severe rash on his lower abdomen. The man showed the rash to detectives and explained that he was scratching at it vigorously when some leaders of the Lafayette Community Action Team's summer lunch program saw him in the park.
Thinking the man was masturbating, leaders rounded up their charges and called police. Deputy Bob Wiro arrived at the scene, made contact with the suspect and interviewed several witnesses, including one child who claimed to have seen the man's genitals.
Impressionable children and a suspect with limited English skills posed significant challenges. Though he later overcame his misgivings sufficiently to make an arrest, Wiro concluded at the time that he lacked a solid basis and decided to simply ask the man to leave the park.
Laura Laird, co-director of the Lafayette Community Action Team, understood the decision to stem from an inability to establish a sexual arousal component.
She said Wiro explained that a person is guilty of public indecency only if he attempts to sexually arouse himself or others, that exposure by itself is not enough. And that set off a public outcry.
Laird and others addressed the situation at meetings of the Lafayette City Council and Yamhill County Board of Commissioners. They also fired off angry e-mails detailing the scenario as they saw it to various county, state and federal officials.
Laird told city councilors she didn't blame the deputy for his decision.
"I know Bob Wiro," she said on July 25. "I like Bob Wiro. I think he's a good man. My concern is what he expressed at the time as the limitations of the law he had to work with."
At the council meeting, a sheriff's detective who subsequently worked on the case alluded to those limitations as well.
"Even if we can't prove it and the case is dropped, it doesn't mean it was acceptable," said Jack Crabtree, one of two detectives assigned to further investigate the matter in the wake of the community uproar. He told those in attendance that the investigation still was not complete. Crabtree, a candidate for county sheriff, in the November election, made his comments a week after the incident. He gave no indication at the time that the case might also lack a factual foundation.
However, detectives were finding little corroboration of the claim the man had been exposing himself. In fact, they were learning he had a explanation of some substance.
Other allegations were proving equally unfounded.
LCAT co-director, Denise Willms, told city councilors that Nava-Azpera had been seen driving past the park every day. Laird supported that account and provided police with the license plate number of the truck he had supposedly been driving. But the truck in question is registered to a Woodburn man. And detectives learned Nava-Azpera had access to no vehicle at all.
More incidents of misidentification began to lead police toward the conclusion that the case lacked substance.
For example, Laird pointed out to Crabtree a person she thought to be Nava-Azpera. It turned out to be an unrelated man of Latino heritage.
Wiro said he had doubts about whether the incident called for an arrest from the beginning. But he emphatically denied that public pressure played any part in his decision to eventually cite Nava-Azpera.
It was information from a second witness that led to the arrest, Wiro said. "She said she saw something that would have met the criteria of the statute," he said.
Wiro declined to name that witness, but according to his reports, it was Willms. She later told detectives she had only seen Nava-Azpera with his hands in his pants, according to Crabtree's follow-up reports.
The drive to broaden the language of the statute continues nonetheless. Berry, Crabtree, Wiro and Kindrick all expressed support for such action.
However, Kindrick - a candidate for appointment as interim sheriff, though not for election to the post in November - stressed said he did not want to wrongfully make Nava-Azpera a model for what is wrong with the law.
Read carefully and think about how much time and money got spent investigating The Case of of the Mexican B**l-Scratcher...
Why would anyone scratch their boots?
Surely my name was addressed in error.
Please observe this - as expressed by fire_ eye in his response - can hardly be applicable to yours truly.
My duties as Crew Leader of The Mobius Triangle do not extend to interrogations about possible
guilt participation in said behavior.
(I would suggest, however, the Crew report at once to Sick Bay - - -)
I had a young soldier under me, assigned as a van driver.
His daily uniform was Class "B"'s, which requires the wear of a brass belt buckle, which seems to be always in need of polishing.
The young soldier had parked in the local PX lot, waiting for a passenger.
He decided the wait time would be ideal for improving his personal appearance, took a can of Brasso and a cloth and commenced to polish his buckle, all while sitting upright in a van that had a slightly higher ground clearance than the surrounding vehicles.
Imagine, if you will, the motion involved in polishing a belt buckle while the buckle is on your person. Also, imagine the busy-body wife of a less-than-successful would-be career officer, with nothing better to do than whine about everything, who just happened to be walking past at that particular time.
Needless to say, the uproar was immediate.
Had it not been for the presence of a very senior NCO, a very senior NCO, who was later to able to relate that the young soldier alighted from the van with a polishing rag in his hand, his pants firmly secured and the buckle still with polish remnant on it, the young soldier would have gone down in flames.
The "witness" actually claimed to have looked down into the van (she was all of 4 foot 10 inches tall) and observed the soldier with his pants around his ankles and his genitals in his hand.
After much brouhaha, the commander of the soldier decided to give the young soldier a letter of reprimand for placing himself in the situation.
That took even more hell-raising on my part and the "very" senior NCO witness to squash. The senior NCO later related to me that he had done the same thing on numerous occasions when he was a young soldier. He just never realized the appearance it presented.
Sometimes the hysteria borders on insanity.
A couple of months later, the "witness" was apprehended in the PX while stealing bras, bras that she could obviously afford to purchase and that were not in her size anyway.
About six months later, the young soldier won the Soldier of the Quarter board.
I don't know if the amount of shine on his belt buckle was an issue for the board members.
No comment here.
I didn't see that in the article. Did I miss it or are you just guessing that he's illegal? You may very well be right but perhaps not.