Tag Archives: Sting

California police targeted gays in sting operations

A judge who said police improperly targeted gay men in sting operations has dismissed charges of lewd conduct and indecent exposure against a man who was arrested in a public bathroom.

Superior Court Judge Halim Dhanidina ruled Rory Moroney’s arrest in 2014 was based on discriminatory enforcement and prosecution, the Long Beach Press-Telegram reported.

If convicted, Moroney would have been required to register as a sex offender for life.

Moroney, 50, was arrested after a detective acting as a vice unit decoy said he exposed himself in a bathroom at Recreation Park in the Los Angeles suburb.

Moroney said the detective, who smiled, nodded and made eye contact in the restroom, appeared to be interested in sex.

During the trial, police indicated they had arrested about 55 men for lewd conduct in the past two years.

Police said they based lewd-conduct operations on complaints, but the judge said there was little evidence of such complaints at the men’s restrooms where most stings took place.

“The presence and tactics of the decoy officers actually caused the crimes to occur,” Dhanidina ruled.

“The arbitrary enforcement of the law as seen in this case undermines the credibility of our legal system, eroding public confidence in our ability to achieve just results,” the judge said in his closing remarks.

“This judge knows discrimination when he sees it,” said Bruce Nickerson, one of Moroney’s defense lawyers. “His ruling is powerful because it sends a message far beyond this case. It sends a message to police departments throughout the state who do these decoy operations for lewd-conduct cases.”

In 1996, Nickerson won a decision from the California Supreme Court that police in Mountain View discriminated against gay men in lewd conduct arrests.

The Long Beach Police Department said in a statement that it is taking the court ruling seriously “and will evaluate how we respond to these kind of complaints.”

Police Chief Robert Luna said the department is “100 percent committed to civil rights and equality for all people, including the LGBTQ community” and has many openly homosexual employees.

City Prosecutor Doug Haubert said his office would review the ruling before commenting.

On Broadway: Season features Sting, Mirren, Jackman and Peter Pan

The coming Broadway season has something for everyone – a musical by Sting, a magician-filled SUV, the incomparable Hugh Jackman, the equally regal Helen Mirren, a musical set in a funeral parlor and not one, but two Gyllenhaals. Here’s a look at some highlights of the 2014-15 season:


You want A-listers? Broadway listened. Bradley Cooper, Michael Cera, Hugh Jackman, Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ewan McGregor, Glenn Close, Gretchen Mol, Kristin Chenoweth, Helen Mirren, James Earl Jones, Matthew Broderick, Tavi Gevinson, Nathan Lane, Rose Byrne, Alan Alda, Brian Dennehy, Mia Farrow, Candice Bergen, Cynthia Nixon, Kristin Chenoweth, Carol Burnett, Anjelica Huston and Tony Danza.


It wouldn’t be a new Broadway season without some revivals: “Side Show” returns for a second time; Tom Stoppard’s “The Real Thing” for a third time in October; Edward Albee’s “A Delicate Balance” for a third time in the fall; “The Elephant Man” for third time starting in November; and the screwball comedy “Noises Off” for a third time next winter.


Producers have dug deep into America’s past to pull out four classic tales: The play “You Can’t Take It With You,” by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, which first debuted in 1936, comes back in September; the 1944 show “On the Town,” with music by Leonard Bernstein and book and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, returns in October; “An American in Paris,” an adaptation of the 1951 Gene Kelly film, comes in spring; and another Comden-Green comedy, “On the Twentieth Century,” steams into town in February.


Hugh Jackman is coming back this fall in “The River” by Jez Butterworth, but does it really matter what he’s doing? For the record, the play, the first since Butterworth’s “Jerusalem,” is about a trout fisherman in a remote cabin who is visited by two of the women in his life. It’s new and moody but Jackman is box-office catnip – his one-man show in 2011 routinely sold out, as did “The Boy From Oz” in 2003 and “A Steady Rain” with Daniel Craig in 2009.


Helen Mirren will be playing British Queen Elizabeth II this spring in “The Audience,” which imagines the private weekly meetings between the monarch and 12 prime ministers, while Kelli O’Hara and Ken Watanabe will be romancing each other starting in March in the Richard Rodgers-Oscar Hammerstein II musical “The King and I.”


Three-time Tony Award-winning composer Jason Robert Brown will seek redemption this winter with his musical of “Honeymoon in Vegas.” Brown’s last show, the lush and romantic “The Bridges of Madison County” closed in May after just 137 performances. Brown’s luck on Broadway has been pretty awful, with “Parade,” “Urban Cowboy” and “13” each not lasting long.


Kenneth Lonergan’s play “This Is Our Youth” debuted off-Broadway in 1996 and has over the years featured such high-profile actors as Mark Ruffalo, Josh Hamilton, Matt Damon, Colin Hanks, Chris Klein, Jake Gyllenhaal and Anna Paquin. Now it’s time for Michael Cera, Kieran Culkin and Tavi Gevinson, all three making their Broadway debuts.


Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick will be together again on Broadway in a revival of Terrence McNally’s “It’s Only a Play.” The duo last appeared together in “The Odd Couple” and famously before that in a little show called “The Producers.” In the updated version of “It’s Only a Play,” Broderick plays an anxious writer, and Lane is stage actor-turned-TV-star best friend.


Seven magicians – including an anti-conjurer, a futurist, an escapologist and an inventor – take the stage for “The Illusionists – Witness the Impossible.” They’re going to hang upside-down, pull gross things from their throats and use swords in creative ways. Critics might be scared to give them a thumbs-down.


Two shows promise sparks from challenging material: The London import “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” based on an adaptation of Mark Haddon’s best-selling novel about a teenager with Asperger’s syndrome who tries to find a dog’s killer, and “Fun Home,” a musical adapted from Alison Bechdel’s memoir about growing up in a funeral home with a closeted gay dad.


There’s no reason to grow up this season: “Finding Neverland,” a musical led by Diane Paulus explores the Peter Pan book’s back story and Allison Williams stars as the iconic title character in NBC’s Dec. 4 telecast of “Peter Pan Live!” the heavily anticipated follow-up to “The Sound of Music.”


Maggie Gyllenhaal will make her Broadway debut starring opposite Ewan McGregor in “The Real Thing” starting in October, while her brother, Jake, will also make his Broadway bow in Nick Payne’s play “Constellations” beginning in December. Those who love Gyllenhaals might be able to see both in the same day.


Producers of A.R. Gurney’s romantic play “Love Letters” seem to have found a way to get you to see the show over and over: they’ve stacked it with changing pairs of stars. Brian Dennehy and Mia Farrow start out in September, then Carol Burnett and Dennehy, then Alan Alda and Candice Bergen, then Stacy Keach and Diana Rigg, and finally Anjelica Huston and Martin Sheen.


A polite dinner party spirals out of control in Ayad Akhtar’s “Disgraced,” which hits Broadway in September having already won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for drama. It will star Hari Dhillon, who played the Muslim-American lawyer at the heart of the play in London. Akhtar, the author of “American Dervish,” is one of theater’s most vibrant, exciting young writers.


Sting, a 16-time Grammy Award winner and former lead singer of The Police, has written the music for “The Last Ship,” with a story by both “Red” playwright John Logan and “Next to Normal” writer Brian Yorkey. The musical is inspired by Sting’s memories of growing up in northeast England.


Nathan Lane and Brian Dennehy both will come off-Broadway to co-star in Eugene O’Neill’s “The Iceman Cometh” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music starting in February. And “In the Heights” composer-lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda will premiere a hip-hop retelling of the life and death of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton at The Public Theater in January.

Neil Patrick Harris and Sting to perform at Tonys

Neil Patrick Harris, Sting, Idina Menzel, Alan Cumming and Sutton Foster — as well as the teaming up of Patti LaBelle, Gladys Knight and Fantasia — will perform at the Tony Awards on June 8.

Producers announced a music-heavy lineup that includes all the best new musical nominees — “Aladdin,” “After Midnight,” “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical,” “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” — and some overlooked ones, including “Bullets Over Broadway,” “Rocky” and “If/Then.” Three revivals — “Les Miserables,” “Violet” and Cumming’s “Cabaret” — will also be featured.

Sting will perform a song from his Broadway-bound musical, “The Last Ship.”

Harris, in the past a winning host, will return to sing a song from his “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” in which he plays a German male transsexual rock singer. He together with a lascivious and edgy Cumming as “Cabaret” emcee may add some spice to the night.

The Tony Awards will be broadcast from Radio City Music Hall on CBS. Hugh Jackman will host.

Stings target gay men in South Carolina

Undercover stings to crack down on prostitution and public sex are snaring individuals engaged in consensual, legal activities and should be stopped. That’s the argument of the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of South Carolina in a complaint letter on Aug. 16 to the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office and the state solicitor’s office.

The ACLU refers to several incidents in which undercover officers approached people parked in their cars, sitting on their own porches or walking down the street and asked suspects to engage in illegal sexual activity, including prostitution and having sex in a public place. The individuals either declined or offered to engage in lawful private sexual contact and were arrested.

“Consenting adults should not be arrested for acts that don’t break any laws,” said Victoria Middleton, executive director of the ACLU of South Carolina. “These sting operations enable officers to make as many arrests as possible, while they do nothing to stop actual criminal activity from occurring.”

Officers, the ACLU says, have repeatedly arrested individuals for being in places known to be frequented by prostitutes, for being “known prostitutes” or merely saying they’d “think about it” when officers approached them to solicit illegal activity. Officers have also arrested men who have sex with men even when the suspects clearly sought to engage in private, consensual, non-commercial sex instead of sex in a public location.

In one case, an undercover officer offered a woman a ride and tried to persuade her to accept money in exchange for sex. While she said she wouldn’t do “the prostitution thing,” they continued discussing a place where they could have sex, and the woman rubbed the inside of the officer’s thigh. She was arrested for sexual assault and battery and loitering to engage in prostitution. A similar incident occurred when a man was arrested for assault for touching a male officer who asked to engage in oral sex.

Undercover sting operations have been criticized by the Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services as an ineffective way to deter street prostitution or public sex. Instead, the Department of Justice recommends other tools, such as the use of prominent warning signs or visible patrol units as more effective strategies that are less prone to abuse.

Ex-Sen. Craig sued for misuse of campaign funds

Former Republican U.S. Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho was sued this week by federal election regulators who contend he misused some $217,000 in campaign funds for his legal defense after his arrest in a 2007 airport bathroom sex sting.

Federal Election Commission officials said in their complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., that Craig should repay the money and pay a fine.

The FEC contends the three-term U.S. senator’s campaign account, Craig for U.S. Senate, paid at least $139,952 to the law firm Sutherland, Asbill and Brennan in Washington, D.C., and $77,032 to Kelly & Jacobson in Minnesota for legal services related to his guilty plea to disorderly conduct.

Craig had been accused of soliciting sex in a bathroom at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. A male undercover officer said Craig tapped his feet and signaled under a stall divider that he wanted sex.

Regulators said the campaign money was converted to personal use because Craig’s defense in Minnesota had no connection to his campaign for federal office.

“Mr. Craig used these funds converted from his campaign committee to pay legal expenses he incurred in connection with his arrest, guilty plea, and subsequent efforts to withdraw his guilty plea in Minnesota,” according to the complaint. “These legal costs were not made in connection with his campaign for federal office or for ordinary and necessary expenses incurred in connection with his duties as a senator.”

Regulators added “the expenses … would have existed irrespective of his duties as senator.”

The FEC said it was unable to resolve the matter through “informal methods of conference, conciliation and persuasion” with Craig earlier this year.

The commission, which voted 5-0 last month to pursue the lawsuit, is also seeking penalties of up to $6,500 from the former senator and his treasurer, Kaye O’Riordan.

A call to Craig’s lobbying firm, New West Strategies in Washington, D.C., wasn’t returned.

O’Riordan also didn’t return a phone call to her Boise home.

After Craig’s guilty plea, he received a sentence of 10 days of jail time and a $1,000 fine; the jail time and half of the fine were suspended.

After the arrest became public, Craig publicly maintained his innocence and his heterosexuality, insisting he only pleaded guilty to keep the embarrassing situation quiet. He initially told a crowd in Boise that he intended to resign, then opted to serve out his term until January 2009.

In 2008, the Minnesota Court of Appeals rejected Craig’s attempt to withdraw his guilty plea.

In January 2009, the three-term senator from Payette, Idaho, decided against asking the Minnesota Supreme Court to void the conviction, marking an end to that phase of his legal wrangling.

According to the FEC complaint, lawyers for Craig wrote in a September 2007 letter to the Senate Ethics Committee that his arrest and conviction were “purely personal conduct unrelated to the performance of official Senate duties.”

On Feb. 13, 2008, the Senate Ethics Committee issued a “Public Letter of Admonition” unanimously concluding that, among other matters, Craig hadn’t complied with Senate rules requiring members to seek approval of any payments for “legal expenses” paid with funds of a principal campaign committee.

In its 11-page filing, the FEC also asked a judge to order Craig to pay the agency’s expenses in the latest case.

In addition to the money targeted by the FEC complaint, Craig spent thousands more from his campaign fund related to the arrest.

However, the FEC concluded that using the money to pay for representation during a Senate Ethics Committee inquiry and to pay for a public-relations firm to respond to media inquiries regarding his arrest and misdemeanor conviction were permissible uses of campaign funds.

ACLU: Cops bothering gays in Kent County, Mich., parks

Gay rights activists in western Michigan say sheriff’s deputies have been unfairly targeting gay men in Kent County parks by striking up conversations with them while working undercover.

Nearly three dozen men were arrested in the parks in 2010 under Michigan’s soliciting law but many simply were talking or holding hands, critics told county commissioners this week.

“In these cases, it’s the officers who are making the approaches. It’s the officers who are doing the accosting and soliciting,” said Miriam Aukerman of the American Civil Liberties Union.

The Grand Rapids Press reports that Sheriff Larry Stelma defended his deputies and said they’re simply trying to keep parks safe.

“This is sensationalizing and a distortion of what’s happening,” Stelma said. “We do not arrest anybody, male or female, for holding hands.”

Michigan law makes it illegal for someone to use a public place to invite another to commit a “lewd or immoral act.”

“If you look at the exact language of the statute, you could apply it to what happens in bars and restaurants in Kent County on any Friday or Saturday night,” Aukerman said. “We have concerns about laws that limit the behavior of consenting adults.”

She said there’s nothing illegal about flirting.

Kent County attorney Dan Ophoff said changes in how deputies deal with such situations are already in the works, although authorities believe past arrests complied with the law. He said some cases were dropped before getting to court.

Surviving the ’70s

Mavis Staples

As a member of the legendary gospel group The Staple Singers, Mavis Staples has been singing for many years. But it wasn’t until the early 1970s, when the group turned its attention to more R&B-oriented material, that it crossed over and achieved mass appeal. Hit singles such as “Respect Yourself,” “I’ll Take You There,” “If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me)” and “Touch A Hand (Make A Friend),” are The Staples’ pop legacy.

As a solo artist, Mavis had a somewhat less successful career, despite working with Prince during the 1980s. But all that changed in recent years when she signed to the hipster Anti- label. Now she’s being discovered by a whole new generation of listeners.

On “You Are Not Alone” (Anti-), Staples is joined by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy (as well as Kelly Hogan and Nora O’Connor) for a set of gospel and bluesy tunes, including the Tweedy-penned title track and “Only The Lord Knows.” Ther are covers of Randy Newman’s “Losing You,” Allen Toussaint’s “Last Train” and John Fogerty’s “Wrote A Song For Everyone,” among others.

Bruce Springsteen

By the time Bruce Springsteen released “Darkness On The Edge of Town” in 1978, he had already been rewarded with commercial and critical success with 1975’s “Born To Run.” The time between discs, which included legal troubles, produced not only the songs on “Darkness,” but several others he created during that time that are now available on the double-disc set “The Promise” (Columbia).  Subtitled “The Lost Sessions from Darkness on the Edge of Town,” you can hear traces of what came before and what was to be on “Darkness,” such as in “Racing In The Street (’78).”

The studio recordings of “Because The Night” and “Fire” are hot, while “Someday (We’ll Be Together), “Wrong Side of the Street,” “Come On (Let’s Go Tonight),” “Talk To Me,” “Breakaway,” the title cut and the newly recorded “Save My Love” already sound like classics.

John Mellencamp

When all is said and done, John Mellencamp turns out to be the Bruce Springsteen of the Midwest. But the early years of his career in the mid-1970s almost threatened that.

Like Springsteen, others had hits with Mellencamp’s songs (see Pat Benatar and “I Need A Lover”) before he himself topped the charts. But his early chart-topping years, unlike Springsteen’s, were hard to take seriously due to the combination of the Cougar pseudonym and the macho fluff of the material. Mellencamp reached a turning point in the mid-1980s, reclaiming his surname and releasing the powerful and mature “Scarecrow” in 1985.

After that he released a series of vastly improved recordings and even worked with dance produce Junior Vasquez. In recent years, Mellencamp has been embracing his roots rocker identity and the stripped-down, raw, T Bone Burnett-produced “No Better Than This” (Rounder) is no exception.

Elvis Costello

Although Elvis Costello first burst on the scene in the significant punk rock year of 1977, and over the years he has proven to be one of the most versatile musicians in contemporary music. Costello’s new album “National Ransom” (Hear Music), produced by the ubiquitous Burnett, successfully wraps up many of Costello’s influences and genres in one tight and tasty package. From the roots punk of the title track through “Five Small Words,” “Church Underground,” “You Hung The Moon,” “Bullets For The New-Born King” and “A Voice In The Dark,” we will forever be in Costello’s debt when it comes to his musical genius.

Graham Parker

Although Graham Parker’s first two albums were released before Costello’s, there’s no question that he got stuck in Elvis’ shadow. But Parker has a number of essential recordings to his name – indeed, no music collection is complete without 1979’s “Squeezing Out Sparks.” “Imaginary Television” (Bloodshot) may not be this century’s “Sparks,” but it does contain enough good material, including “Broken Skin,” “Always Greener” and “1st Responder,” to make it worth tuning into “Imaginary Television.”

J.P., Chrissie & The Fairground Boys

Since The Pretenders’ celebrated 1979 debut album was released, founder and front-woman Chrissie Hynde has been eternally linked to that band. The 2008 Pretenders disc “Break Up The Concrete” was the group’s first genuinely strong album in several years a welcome addition to its catalog. But Hynde’s latest project is not one related to The Pretenders. “Fidelity” (La Mina) is credited to J.P., Chrissie & The Fairground Boys. We already know who Chrissie is. J.P. is J.P. Jones, a young musician (rumored to be Hynde’s paramour) with whom she collaborates over the course of 11 tracks. It’s a sweet and appealing record, possibly the most poppy recording of Hynde’s career. Just listen to “Australia,” “Your Fairground,” “Leave Me If You Must” and the title tune and see if you don’t agree.


A seriously flawed recording, 2010’s “Symphonicities” by Sting found the former Police-man revisiting songs from both his ‘70s and ‘80s Police and his later solo songbook in an orchestral setting (can you say “Travelogue” by Joni Mitchell?). Sting must have enjoyed the experience because he took it on the road with an orchestra and now we have the CD/DVD set “Live In Berlin” (Deutsche Gramophone) as proof. While it’s hard not to have a soft spot for Sting for his Quentin Crisp homage “Englishman In New York,” there’s a bit of self-indulgence at work here (Sting, self-indulgent? Say it isn’t so.). Still, for Sting’s legion of fans, this is a gift that keeps on giving.

From the `80s, with love

Crowded House

“Intriguer” (Fantasy) is a good name for Crowded House’s first studio disc in a few years because it’s always interesting.  Beginning with the rocking “Saturday Sun,” CH returns to more familiar sonic territory on “Archer’s Arrows” and “Falling Dove.” But the real intrigue here is the increased use of piano on songs like “Twice If You’re Lucky” and the touch of twang on “Elephants.”

Howard Jones

Howard Jones arrived in 1982 with a new wave haircut and the ridiculously catchy electronic single “New Song.” He had all the markings of a one-hit wonder, but then went on to deliver a string of hits including “Things Can Only Get Better” and  “No One Is To Blame.” The decidedly mellow “Ordinary Heroes” (DT), Jones’ first studio album in five years, finds him revisiting recognizable themes and delivering his standard ‘chin up old chap’ message on songs “Straight Ahead,” “Fight On,” and the title tune.


Sting isn’t the first person to re-imagine his hits in an orchestral setting. The results are unfortunately uneven on “Symphonicities” (Deutsche Gramophone/Cherry Tree). Sure, it’s fun to hear the frenetic Police number “Next To You” in this setting. But “Englishman In New York” (about the late Quentin Crisp) doesn’t sound all that different from the original on “Nothing Like The Sun” (1987). “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” veers towards schmaltz, but the slow simmer of “I Burn For You” (from the 1982 “Brimstone and Treacle”) and the brassy take on “We Work The Black Seam” (from 1985’s “The Dream of the Blue Turtles”) fare somewhat better.

Natalie Merchant

Before she became a successful and popular solo artist in the mid-1990s, Natalie Merchant was the celebrated voice of 10,000 Maniacs. On her fifth and latest solo studio effort “Leave Your Sleep” (Nonesuch), singer/songwriter Merchant turns her attention to the words of others, including poets Gerard Manley Hopkins, e.e. cummings and Ogden Nash for a soothing set of numbers meant to lull listeners of all ages.


The kooky kings of the American new wave castle, Ohio’s Devo came onto the scene in the fertile musical year of 1978, but it was their 1980 “Freedom of Choice” album, containing their classic smash “Whip It,” that made them household names. Unfortunately, they were unable to recapture that electronically charged spark on subsequent releases. As comeback albums go, “Something For Everybody” (Warner Brothers) is a solid effort. Full of all sorts of contemporary cultural references with a focus on consistent and less-experimental dance beats. Standout tracks include “What We Do,” “Sumthin’” (which owes a debt to “Whip It”), “Later Is Now” and “March On.”

Los Lobos

Beginning with their groundbreaking 1983 EP “…And a Time to Dance” and their full-length major-label debut “How Will The Wolf Survive?,” East L.A.’s Los Lobos gave their fans something to howl about.  Last year, the band went Disney for a kid’s record, but have returned full-force with “Tin Can Trust” (Shout Factory). Notable numbers include “Burn It Down,” “West L.A. Fadeaway” and the title cut.

Stan Ridgway

For better or worse, Wall of Voodoo was a sort of Los Angeles version of Devo. Just listen to the band’s massive hit song “Mexican Radio” to see what I mean. WoV front-man Stan Ridgway went on to have a solo career and garnered a cult following, due in part to his distinctive vocal style.  As cinematic as ever, Ridgway’s “Neon Mirage” (A440) goes cowboy/western over the course of twelve howdy-pardner tracks, including “This Town Called Fate” and “Lenny Bruce.” Be sure to catch the oasis of “Desert of Dreams” and hip-twister “Turn A Blind Eye.”


The massive 1985 hit, “Take On Me,” by Swedish electronic band a-ha was the perfect combination of infectious music/lyrics and groundbreaking video. The trio was also incredibly sexy. Their debut album, “Hunting High and Low” (WB/Rhino), has been reissued in a considerably expanded double-disc set. The release features the original album plus bonus tracks on the first disc and b-sides, demos and rarities on the second. a-ha’s less successful sophomore album also gets the expanded reissue treatment, while the 19-track single disc “The Singles 1984-2004” (WB/Rhino) finally gets a domestic release.

Billy Squier

Billy Squier’s 1981 album “Don’t Say No” (Capitol/Shout Factory) has been reissued in an expanded 30th anniversary edition that includes a pair of live tracks. The original album, featuring the hits “The Stroke,” “In The Dark” and “My Kinda Lover,” is definitely a product of its time, but it holds up well.