Thursday, May 26, 2005

Lofy pleads not guilty to disorderly conduct ticket - LAKE GENEVA AND WILLIAMS BAY TIMES

Attorney says behavior is protected speech

By Carrie Dampier

Kerry Lofy pleaded not guilty last week to a disorderly conduct ticket he received two days after his May 7 prom in which he allegedly engaged in sexually risqu» behavior.

Lofy’s attorney, Erik Guenther, filed the written plea on behalf of his client May 17, essentially excusing Lofy from having to make an appearance in Lake Geneva Municipal Court May 24. Guenther said Lake Geneva City Attorney Michael Rielly will review the plea and will have the choice of either dismissing the citation or allowing it to move forward.

“I am confident that once Mr. Rielly reads the correspondence he will choose not to move forward,” said Guenther last Thursday.

Guenther said a pretrial date will be set at a future time.

Lofy made headlines nationwide when he wore a dress, platinum blonde wig and high-heeled shoes while escorting a gay friend to the school prom earlier this month. School officials refused to let him in with the dress on, but did allow him to enter later, when he returned with a leisure suit on over the dress. When Lofy engaged in a sort of dance number in which he and another male student were both lying prone on the dance floor, Lofy was kicked out of the prom.

Lofy is not gay and has said both the dress and the dancing were meant to be entertaining. He has agreed not to speak to the media while fighting the ticket.

When Lofy showed up for school the next Monday, he was issued a $249 disorderly conduct ticket by the Lake Geneva Police Department and received a three-day suspension from the school. Lofy was also forced to sit out one track and field meet, which happened to be the Southern Lakes Conference meet the next week.

Guenther, an attorney who specializes in civil rights, said both the school and the police violated Lofy’s first amendment rights to free expression.

Because school officials warned Lofy the day before prom not to wear the dress, then refused to let him in until he had on more traditional male clothing, Guenther said the school violated his first amendment rights, as well as his rights under an equal protections clause.

“We also believe Mr. Lofy’s attire and alleged conduct does not give rise to a disorderly conduct ticket,” Guenther added. “That citation, while not criminal, will follow Mr. Lofy for the rest of his life.”

Guenther said he asked the school to issue an apology to Lofy for not allowing him into the prom with a dress on, but the school refused to do so.

Badger Superintendent Dr. James Gottinger has said Lofy’s punishment had less to do with his choice of attire and much more to do with his actions on the Riviera Ballroom dance floor that night. He also said Lofy’s suspension was “absolutely” not an anti-gay statement by the district, but that because Lofy had been told not to wear the dress several times, he openly defied authority and that by wearing the dress and then by engaging in inappropriate dance behavior he broke the district’s code of conduct.

Calling the ticket and other punishments ridiculous, Guenther added, “There is nothing to suggest that Kerry meant harm to anyone” that night.

Guenther said he has advised Lofy to file a lawsuit against the school district, but said Lofy has no interest in litigation.

“That speaks volumes about who is as a person,” said Guenther of Lofy’s refusal to pursue legal channels.

Still, Guenther said Badger isn’t necessarily in the clear.

“This is a concern for civil rights groups across the country,” he said. “Were I on the school board I would be looking at this hard. … The district’s actions has painted a target on its back.”

Guenther said first amendment protections are afforded minors, even while at school, and that time and again courts all the way up to the United States Supreme Court have protected unpopular expressions.

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