ACLU Will Investigate Michigan State Police Sting Operation Targeting Gay Men

June 21, 2004

DETROIT -- After receiving information about the entrapment of gay men or men suspected of being gay at a highway rest area, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan announced that it will be investigating the alleged undercover sting operation by the Michigan State Police.

"This kind of police activity is discriminatory,” said Kary Moss, ACLU of Michigan Executive Director. “If there are legitimate concerns regarding public sexual activity at rest stops, uniformed officers and marked cars should be patrolling, but entrapment is an inappropriate use of police resources.”

During the weekend of June 11, at least a dozen men were arrested and others detained at a rest area near Holt, on northbound M-127, just outside of Lansing. Undercover officers, pretending to be gay, are alleged to have approached men at the rest stop, attempted to engage them in conversation of a sexual nature, and then arrested them under Michigan’s solicitation and criminal sexual conduct statutes.

“It certainly sounds suspicious that the State Police decided to implement this operation during the weekend of Michigan Gay Pride,” said Jay Kaplan, staff attorney for the LGBT Project.

A man who reported the incident to the ACLU was mistakenly arrested, was released when a state police officer told his fellow officer, “that’s the wrong fag.”  The arrests all occurred during Michigan Gay Pride weekend, held in Lansing.

The ACLU of Michigan, under the Freedom of Information Act has requested that the Michigan State Police provide copies of documents relating to the Holt Rest Area, including tickets issues, arrest records, and investigative reports.  The Triangle Foundation is also looking into these charges and has asked the Ingham County Prosecutor’s office to carefully scrutinize any requests by the Michigan State Police regarding charges against the men arrested as part of this operation.

In a similar case in 2001, the ACLU of Michigan, representing the Triangle Foundation and other plaintiffs, successfully sued the City of Detroit Police Department for its undercover sting operation targeting gay men in Rouge Park.  In a settlement agreement, the City agreed to pay money damages, repeal and amend unconstitutional ordinances, and to undergo sensitivity training regarding gay and lesbian issues.

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