More than 20 years after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor, a Washington state man has had his case dismissed.
Rodney Antonson, 51, pleaded guilty in 1995 to indecent exposure. He was arrested as part of a police sting operation in a public park that was targeting men seeking sex with other men. Over a two-month period, 27 men were arrested. Antonson does not deny that he exposed himself to an undercover police officer, however, he said it was the police officer who suggested they have sex. Antonson's attorney said it is a clear case of entrapment. “At one point, the officer knelt down and encouraged him to expose himself. And then the officer pulled out his badge and arrested him.”
Entrapment is an affirmative defense in which a defendant alleges the police acquired evidence necessary for a criminal prosecution by inducing the defendant to engage in a criminal act that the defendant would not otherwise have committed. An affirmative defense is one in which the defendant introduces credible evidence that invalidates a criminal or civil liability even if the defendant committed the act. Other examples of an affirmative defense, include self-defense, insanity, and necessity.
Earlier this year Antonson asked the governor's clemency and pardons board for a pardon. He was turned down in February without being given a reason for the denial. After he was turned down for a pardon, his attorney filed to have the case dismissed. The case recently was dismissed, but his attorney said Antonson, who is suffering from diabetes, AIDS and lymphoma in remission, may renew his request for a pardon. Indication from the governor's office is that Antonson will not receive a pardon, in part because the governor claims his ability to grant pardons is limited to felonies and also because the case has been dismissed, so there is no conviction to pardon.
In retrospect, Antonson said he should have fought the charge at the time, but he was married and had not yet admitted he was gay. He also worked as a chef at a country club and was concerned he would be fired if he fought the case and it gained attention. His public defender urged him to plead “no contest,” saying he would pay a small fine, he would not have to serve jail time and the conviction would remain quiet. Antonson took his advice, not realizing the future implications.
He and his wife had a daughter before divorcing, and Antonson stayed active in his child's life. It was not until his daughter reached school age that he realized the impact of his “no contest” plea. He wanted to volunteer with other parents to go on field trips and participate in school activities. He learned the school conducted background checks of prospective volunteers, so as a test, he looked up his name in the court database. He found his conviction for indecent exposure, so to save his daughter any embarrassment, he decided against volunteering.
Earlier this year, he put in an application to volunteer at an emergency services center for the homeless and was denied after a background check.
Changes in societal attitudes and public policy in recent years lead Antonson and his attorney to believe the time was right to request a pardon. A pardon request is not a lawsuit and does not seek financial damages.
Despite the circumstances, everyone deserves a quality defense. If you are facing criminal charges in Washington State and suspect you are the victim of entrapment, call the Seattle law office of Steve Karimi at (206) 621-8777 or contact him online.