Intent to Arouse

Dallas swingers learn that an ill-timed grope can lead to a date in court

"You usually sit down, meet a couple, and talk about the kids. Honey? How much did we talk about the kids that night?" Franky asks Stephanie, who responds with a sarcastic laugh from the kitchen. "Funny," she says, "you go out, and all you talk about is the kids."

To this day, Franky and Stephanie are convinced that they didn't do anything wrong. Instead, they believe the police have too much time on their hands.

"I went to a club and danced with my wife. I got frisky with my wife. For that I'm thrown in jail and treated like the robbers, the drunk drivers, and the rapists?" Franky says incredulously. "Do they have nothing better to do than pick on married couples in a club we considered private?"

Two days after his arrest, Franky was let go from his job as an accountant. Although the job wasn't going well long before the Jet Set raid, Franky didn't guess his departure would happen so quickly. And because Stephanie took a year off from her teaching job to care for the newborns, Franky's dismissal has left the couple without an income or, more importantly, health insurance.

Now in heavy pursuit of a job, Franky is realizing that his last trip to the Jet Set is turning his otherwise tranquil world on its head.

An accountant by profession, every time Franky fills out a job application he is asked whether he's ever been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude. If Franky gets convicted, or even if he pleads no contest, that might be just enough to harm his standing with the state board of accountancy.

"You're talking about throwing a whole career out the window," he says. "What do you do, approaching 40 and having to start all over?"

As he gives a tour of his two-story house, Franky explains that after 15 years of perfect credit, he is, for the first time ever, late on a car payment and, worse, he may not be able to make mortgage at the end of the month. In recent weeks, he's begun selling some possessions in order to make ends meet.

He stops in his daughter's bedroom, where three red and blue ribbons are tacked to the wall. The girl, who has been riding the family's horse since she was a tot, has become a championship rider in her teen years.

"How do you think it felt when I had to tell her that I had to sell her horse?" Franky says, his voice cracking. "Why are they pursuing this? God, these are people who don't even have a speeding ticket on their record."

The sound of turning pages echoes in the telephone receiver as Capt. Eddie Walt turns to section 21.07 of the Texas Penal Code, which defines the state's public lewdness laws.

As head of the Dallas Police Department's vice unit, Walt is responsible for rousting the city's hookers, pornographers, gamblers, booze peddlers, and of course, its "perverts"--that is, people arrested for public lewdness or indecent exposure.

With the humor of a Catholic sex-education instructor, Walt monotonously sounds off the four acts that constitute public lewdness in Texas.

"It includes an act of sexual intercourse, an act of deviate sexual intercourse, an act of sexual contact, an act involving contact between the person's mouth or genitals and the anus or genitals of an animal or fowl," Walt says, pausing briefly. "So it includes chickens."

Under the law, all of those acts become illegal if they're conducted in a public place or, if not in a public place, committed by someone who is reckless about whether someone else might be present who would be offended.

The law's wording may sound ridiculously rigid, but the nit-picking phrasing has its purpose: Attorneys have made all sorts of artful arguments in attempts to excuse their clients' carnal behavior.

In the 1885 case of Cross vs. State, for example, an attorney unsuccessfully argued that his client shouldn't be found guilty of doing it with a "mare" because the authorities failed to accurately describe the "genus" of said animal or properly identify it as a female.

So in drafting the modern public lewdness code, state lawmakers were precise when they defined each lewd act.

Deviate sexual intercourse means "any contact between any part of the genitals of one person and the mouth or anus of another person" (read oral or anal sex). Or, the definition continues, "the penetration of the genitals of another person with an object." The latter includes animate and inanimate objects, meaning everything from fingers and dildos to fresh vegetables.

It's probably safe to argue that most folks in Dallas would rather not see couples having intercourse--deviate or otherwise--in public. But anyone who likes to spend an evening grinding away on the dance floor should pay attention to the portion of the law concerning "sexual contact." This definition refers to "any touching of the anus, breast, or any part of the genitals of another person with intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person."

If that definition sounds awfully vague, rest assured that the courts have ruled that it is not. In 1978, in Ronald Resnick vs. Texas, the defendant was charged with illegal sexual contact after he put his hands on the portion of a police officer's pants that covered his crotch.

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