Get SF Weekly Newsletters

Friday, November 30, 2012

Scott Wiener Bathroom Photo: Law Prof Calls Blogger's Account "Public Confession"

Posted By on Fri, Nov 30, 2012 at 3:58 PM

Perhaps he said too much... - LUKE THOMAS, FOG CITY JOURNAL

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.

"If a picture is taken of me just brushing my teeth, I don't have any expectation of privacy if I'm a public figure," says Cohen. "But if he's accused of trying to take a picture of [Wiener] urinating? I'd say that's a crime. Attempt is a crime."

In his blog post, Petrelis appears to have said far too much, admitting he'd have snapped a photo of Wiener at the urinal if only his camera wasn't so slow.

"An attempt is when an individual with intent to complete an act takes some action toward the completion of that act -- and this guy [Petrelis] has said exactly that. He's confessed in public," continues Cohen. "There is at least a colorable claim of interference with the privacy which is reasonably expected. So I think there may be something to the charge."

Petrelis has written that his first court appearance is scheduled for Dec. 5.

  • Pin It

Tags: , , , , ,

About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.

Suggested Reading


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed

Like us on Facebook


  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"