NEW YORK (September 30, 2008) — Today, with assistance from McDermott Will & Emery lawyers, Lambda Legal filed a federal lawsuit in Tennessee on behalf of Kenneth Giles against Johnson City and its police chief. The lawsuit focuses on the fact that the Johnson City Police Department (JCPD), in a highly unusual action for that Department, released photos of Giles and 39 other men who were arrested in a public sex sting operation.
On October 1, 2007, the JCPD issued a press release, personally approved by the police chief, that included photos that were taken at the scene where 40 men, including Mr. Giles, were arrested in a public sex sting. The local news ran the story prominently along with the pictures and addresses of the men involved. Lambda Legal reviewed the police department's press releases for 2007 and found that out of approximately 600 other releases, none pertaining to arrests were accompanied by photos or personally approved by the chief. Of the 40 arrested, one man committed suicide, and several others lost their jobs, including Mr. Giles, who was fired from his job as a nurse at the VA hospital.
"In America, the police do not get to add an extra punishment to people they don't like," said Greg Nevins, supervising senior staff attorney in Lambda Legal's Southern Regional Office based in Atlanta. "They also do not get to ignore the principle of innocent until proven guilty. The JCPD went out of its way to humiliate Mr. Giles and caused irreparable damage."
"I don't understand how the police department can release photos of one group and not any others," said Kenneth Giles. "I lost my livelihood because my arrest was treated differently."
Lambda Legal argues that the JCPD violated federal equal protection law by singling out these men for harsher treatment by making their images available to the media. Indeed, the actions of the JCPD are the latest in a long history of the police going beyond legitimate law enforcement measures to take extraordinary action designed to target gay men for humiliation and harassment.
Mr. Nevins is handling the case, Giles v. City of Johnson City, et al. Lambda Legal's cooperating counsel in this case are McDermott partner Lisa Linsky with assistance from Firm associate Brian Tiemann. John Winemiller of Merchant & Gould, P.C. is also cooperating counsel in the case.
Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work. For more information please visit: www.lambdalegal.org.
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