Giles v. City of Johnson City, et al.
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 pictures and addresses of the men involved. Lambda Legal reviewed the police department’s press releases for over a period of a year and found that out of approximately 600 other releases, none pertaining to arrests was accompanied by photos or personally approved by the chief. Of the 40 arrested, one man has committed suicide and several others have lost their jobs, including Kenneth Giles who was fired from his job as a nurse at the VA hospital. On September 30, 2008, Lambda Legal filed a federal lawsuit in Tennessee on behalf of Kenneth Giles, arguing that the JCPD violated federal equal protection law by singling out these men for harsher treatment by making their images available to the media.
The actions of the JCPD publicizing the photographs of men arrested as part of a sting operation targeting gay and bisexual men, while not similarly publicizing other arrests, are the latest chapter in a long history of police departments' unequal treatment of members of the public based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation.
Lambda Legal's Impact
A victory would send a clear message to law enforcement that adding extra punishment to members of the public based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation is unacceptable, and would reinforce the concept of innocent until proven guilty.
- September 2008 Lambda Legal files federal lawsuit in Tennessee.
- January 2010 Lawsuit reaches a resolution. Chief Lowry suggests a nondiscrimination policy and an update to the JCPD media policy to address the release of arrestee photographs; and announces a program to train JCPD officers on the policies and to recognize and avoid conduct that would violate those guarantees.
Gregory R. Nevins
John Winemiller, Merchant & Gould, P.C.; Lisa Linsky and Jill Basinger, McDermott, Will & Emery, LLP.