A Columbus park is known as a hook-up place for casual sex.
Now, a judge says he's not holding one participant responsible.
The judge dropped charges against a man arrested for allegedly exposing himself in Helsel Park on South Hamilton Road.
This decision came as a surprise for some officers and the city prosecutor.
According to police, the park is one of the top parks in the city for this kind of illicit activity, which is why that undercover detective was here in the first place.
“If they ran that park up on the Internet, any time in the last three years, they would have found out that it is advertised as a meeting place in Columbus for people seeking casual sex,” says Franklin County Municipal Judge Ted Barrows.
Within minutes of a 10TV News crew showing up at Helsel Park, dozens of men appeared from within the trees, and left in droves.
Recently, Judge Ted Barrows ruled on a case from the park, where an undercover Columbus VICE detective arrested a man for public indecency
Judge Barrows says video was admitted as evidence in court, “showing the officer passing the person… the defendant pulled out his *p----* and approached the officer. And then the officer placed him under arrest.”
Judge Barrows decided the 60-year-old man's actions weren't seen by anyone else, and therefore didn't offend.
“It’s not illegal to have consenting sex with an adult. Time, place, and manner may be important,” said Barrows.
Columbus City Attorney Richard Pfeiffer says he's concerned with what this decision may mean in the future.
“Well, it seems to me, you might say it encourages people to do that. I would strongly say to people, don't be in that frame of mind because we are going to enforce our laws in our public parks,” said Pfeiffer.
“All the police enforcement in the world hasn't changed what goes on in that park,” said Barrows.
The man in question could have faced jail time for the charges.
Instead, the judge let him go, saying the city needs to temporarily shut down the park to fix the problem.
“This has upset, I understand, a lot of folks in our VICE division. Our vice unit, of our division of police, but we have told them, keep enforcing the law,” said Pfeiffer
A spokesperson for Columbus police tells 10TV they will continue to enforce the laws as they are written.
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