San Francisco, CA — A 48-year-old man whose attempt to fit in with Castro nudists ended in his arrest was acquitted of indecent exposure following a jury trial, San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi announced today.
Jurors deliberated one day before finding Richard Sierra of San Francisco not guilty Thursday afternoon, said his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Cindy Elias. The misdemeanor charge carried a maximum penalty of a year in jail and Sierra faced lifetime registration as a sex offender if convicted.
Sierra decided to participate for the first time in the “urban nudism” movement in the Castro on the morning Nov. 11, 2012. Over the past several years, a group of nudists, dubbed “the naked guys,” had been drawing increasing attention for congregating in the Castro District.
“At the time Mr. Sierra was arrested, San Francisco supervisors had not yet passed the ban against public nudity,” Elias said. “Until Feb. 1, 2013, it wasn’t a crime to be naked in San Francisco.”
Sierra, an inexperienced nudist, felt self-conscious completely disrobing. Instead, he pulled his pants down to his knees and pulled his tank top to just above his genitals in order to hide scars on his stomach. While many of the longtime Castro nudists wore cock rings, Sierra had only a metal ring from a binder. He attached it to his shirt and looped it around his penis to ensure his scars were covered. Sierra stood in front of Citibank on Castro Street, his genitals exposed.
Meanwhile, a 53-year-old man walking his dog saw Sierra arranging his genitals and flagged down two police officers on bicycles. The dog walker reported that Sierra appeared to be masturbating with personal lubricant.
While being detained, Sierra tried to explain to officers that he was not masturbating. He told them that he wanted to like the “naked guys” but was too shy to embrace total nudity. Sierra asked the officers why they were bothering him while numerous nude men walked around the neighborhood. Sierra was arrested.
During the three day trial, Sierra testified that he was not touching himself for sexual gratification and that he did not have personal lubricant – only a prescription cream for his chronic eczema. He did not apply the cream to his genitals, he testified, noting that he uses the medication sparingly due to its cost of $100.
Police did not book any of Sierra’s items into evidence, nor attempt to collect cell phone photographs taken by numerous passersby.
Rusty Mills, a well-known nudist activist, took the stand as an expert witness in the case. Mills testified to the various purposes of cock rings other than for sexual purposes.
Sierra, who had no history of sexual crimes, wept with relief when the jury returned its verdict, Elias said.
Jeff Adachi commended jurors for looking beyond first impressions in the case.
“Mr. Sierra was arrested at a time when public nudity was common and went unpunished in the Castro. Mr. Sierra’s failed attempt at being a nudist certainly does not warrant lifetime registration as a sex offender,” Adachi said.