Charges against a man who was arrested for exposing himself at a Long Beach park in 2014 were dismissed Friday by a judge who criticized the Long Beach Police Department’s undercover stings as discriminatory toward homosexual men.
Long Beach resident Rory Moroney, 50, was arrested in October 2014 after he masturbated in front of an undercover officer at Recreation Park, according to his Attorney Bruce Nickerson.
Moroney was arrested for lewd conduct and indecent exposure, charges that would have forced him to register as a sex offender for life if he was found guilty.
Superior Court Judge Halim Dhanidina found officers were systematically targeting men engaging in homosexual sex during their undercover lewd conduct investigations and Recreation Park through misleading information in their reports.
“The court finds that the conduct of the Long Beach Police Department is indicative of animus toward homosexuals,” the judge’s findings read.
Nickerson said two years' worth of police reports found that 100 percent of all undercover arrests for lewd conduct were of males by male officers acting as decoys during investigations of cruising activities in a public place. In addition, complaint logs from the previous two years showed no complaints from the citizenry about that particular restroom—which police claimed had lead to their investigation.
At the same time, Nickerson found that complaints of heterosexual couples having sex at the beach would only result in officers charging them with curfew or nudity violations.
In Moroney’s case, Nickerson claimed the officer flirted with him for about three to four minutes inside the bathroom before Moroney exposed himself and was promptly arrested.
“So if the officer, who is a decoy cop, sends signals to gain his confidence and to encourage him well then he made the person believe that there will be no offense [... ] and you have no crime,” Nickerson said.
The court also found that to be true.
“The conduct of the undercover officer was intentionally and consistently suggestive, ensuring that the suspect sees increasing opportunities that would identify the officers as potential sexual partners,” according to the court finding.
Nickerson said he was extraordinarily happy with the judge’s decision, which he called courageous. He said he was counting on the judge’s background—as the first Muslim judge in California—to win the case.
“One thing about being the state and the country’s only openly Muslim judge is you've experienced discrimination and you recognize discrimination when you see it,” Nickerson said. “And I was counting on that making the difference. And it did.”
Nickerson also called Moroney’s testimony courageous. At trial he said his client broke down and cried when the decision was made.
Upon hearing the news, LGBTQ Center Long Beach Executive Director Porter Gilberg told the Post that the center strongly supports Judge Dhanidina’s ruling to invalidate the arrest of Moroney.
“The Center was unaware that the Long Beach Police Department was still operating stings to entrap and arrest gay men until this case was brought to our attention,” said Gilberg. “It is appalling that anyone would be arrested under these circumstances and extremely concerning that gay men are obviously being targeted. Sting operations like these are blatantly homophobic, puritanical, irrational, and serve no other purpose than to punish gay men.”
The LBPD also released the following statement in regard to the ruling:
Today’s ruling to dismiss the case of the People vs. Rory Moroney was unexpected to the Police Department. The Long Beach Police Department’s Vice Section investigates citizen complaints regarding lewd conduct based on reported locations, not based on individuals. We are taking this court ruling seriously, and will evaluate how we respond to these kinds of complaints.
The Vice Section concentrates its resources primarily on human trafficking investigations and only conducts lewd conduct investigations in response to citizen complaints. Sexual activity in a public place is illegal and the department will continue to educate the community regarding this issue, and enforce the law.
All Long Beach Police Department employees are trained to police without bias, and do not discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender when responding to investigations or complaints.
“The Police Department actively engages with our LGBTQ community and collaborates with community leaders to provide ongoing training to LBPD employees," said LBPD Chief Robert Luna in a statement. "We are 100% committed to civil rights and equality for all people, including the LGBTQ community. We actively participate in LGBTQ events, pride parades, civil rights forums, and our department has many openly gay and lesbian employees who are a critical part of our team. We operate daily with the best interest of the citizens of Long Beach and will continue our efforts to make this a safe city for all people."