Earlier today we reported on gay activist and blogger Michael Petrelis' arrest stemming from an incident in which he photographed Supervisor Scott Wiener in a City Hall men's room, then posted the picture on his blog.
The arrest was referred to on Petrelis' site as "an act of heavy-handed political retribution." That's one way of looking at it. Another, says Professor Mort Cohen, is that you shouldn't attempt to snap photos of people urinating and then admit to it on the internet.
Petrelis is being charged with violating Section 647(j) of the penal code, which deals with spying on or recording someone in an "area in which the occupant has a reasonable expectation of privacy." Cohen says a men's room counts here -- but not in every circumstance. And if Petrelis hadn't crowed about his accomplishment -- in writing -- the Golden Gate University law prof says it'd be much harder to charge him with a crime.
Petrelis has clashed with Wiener in the past, and objected to the supervisor's recent ordinance banning most public nudity. In an Oct. 27 blog post, he admitted to attempting to photograph the supervisor in mid-piss:
My new camera was ready for use in the second floor men's room at City Hall on Friday afternoon when I walked in. Scott Wiener was standing at the urinal and had just started to tinkle as I entered and the camera took 4-6 seconds to focus, enough time for him to put away his wiener and zipper up.
The only photo I caught was of him grabbing his toothbrush from the wash basin. He sighed heavily and with exasperation having to not only have to interact with me, but in a restroom and with a camera going off. I made small talk the beautiful day and he left in a huff.