Israeli business owner sued Windsor Locks in 2012 alleging town officials unfairly targeted hotel but a federal judge rules swingers’ rights were not violated
The saga of rival New England swingers clubs, a Ludacris concert without liquor, and a landlord on the lam in Israel has drawn to an end with a federal judge’s ruling that sex in a hotel bar, however creative or undisguised, is not a form of protected free speech.
Take from: TheGuardian
For more than three years, the small Connecticut town of Windsor Locks has spent time, energy and cash to fend off a lawsuit brought by Sharok Jacobi, the owner of a hotel that played host to sex parties and concerts that violated state laws. In 2012 Jacobi sued the town and police department, alleging that they had infringed on free speech and association rights, violated its privacy, and unfairly targeted the hotel because it catered to an African American and Hispanic clientele.
Complaints about Jacobi’s hotel began in 2007, when neighbors and staff called police over rowdy parties, fights and at least two gunfights there. Before long, police heard from a man who claimed that he could see sexual acts in the hotel from a cafe across the street. Two liquor control agents met with the tipster at a Dunkin Donuts, and were shown photos of a swingers’ party in the hotel bar.
The agents promptly signed up for a party at the hotel, known over the years as Club 91 and the Windsor Lounge, organized by a group called “Hot Couples”. From the hotel bar, they had “a clear view into a sitting area” despite someone’s attempt “to obstruct viewing with plants”, according to court documents.
From their perch, the agents saw the hotel’s permit holder walking around, unperturbed by the “men and women exposing their genitals, fondling others’ genitals, engaging in oral sex, and masturbating” around him, the documents say.
They stepped outside and returned to raid on behalf of the Connecticut liquor control board, and local police eventually arrested the permit holder, Jacobi, and two party organizers, for criminal liability to commit obscenity and public indecency.
Over the years, the hotel’s managers continued to get into disputes with law enforcement over fire code violations, a liquor license that expired before a Ludacris concert there, and permits for gun shows. In 2012, Jacobi sued back, saying his hotel had been unfairly targeted by the authorities and its patrons’ rights violated.
Although by 2012, Jacobi was no longer associated with the hotel – at which point his company Beverly Hills Suites LLC, had also filed for bankruptcy – Jacobi fought the police’s characterization of his hotel, saying in court documents that it “was not a sleazy motel where unsavory sex and prostitution occur but a gorgeous hotel renovated at a cost of millions of dollars.
He did not run the hotel day-to-day, he argued in a deposition, even though one of the party promoters testified that Jacobi “was fully aware of the parties”. Then the owner argued that Hot Couples always rented out the whole hotel, meaning its public areas – the bar and lobby where agents saw sex acts – were not public, even though Connecticut law holds that the hotel cannot close its doors to the public while its bar remains open.
Jacobi also alleged that the secret identity of the cafe informant threw into question police procedures: the concerned citizen was in fact John Moylan, the operator of a competing sex group known as the New England Swingers, and a man with “an obsessive interest in stopping [Hot Couples] events”, according to Jacobi.
Federal judge Michael Shea threw out all Jacobi’s complaints last week. “The sexual activity the liquor control agents described observing,” Shea wrote, “is not constitutionally protected speech.”
Shea cited several court cases to back up his decision, ultimately finding: “The [Hot Couples] swingers’ event involved no stage or performance aspect (with the exception of the fact that someone was taking photographs), and it was not accompanied by any advocacy of a particular lifestyle. Thus, it is not protected by the first amendment for the same reasons that prostitution is not so protected.”
He similarly found that the town never violated the swingers’ or hotel’s right to free association, since the hotel rented out the bar for $500 a night and took profits for liquor sales and rooms.
“Even the swingers themselves could assert no violation of constitutionally protected associational rights here,” Shea wrote. He then quoted former supreme court justice Sandra Day O’Connor: “Any personal bonds that are formed from the use of a motel room for fewer than 10 hours are not those that have played a critical role in the culture and traditions of the nation.”
Shea dismissed the bulk of Jacobi’s allegations out of a lack of evidence to support his claims.
Lawyers for the town of Windsor Locks declined to comment on the decision, and Jacobi’s attorney did not respond to requests for comment. Jacobi himself spent most of the protracted court battle in Israel, where he avoided US law enforcement’s pursuit for a separate set of charges. He was convicted in absentia in March 2012 for violations involving illegal apartments in Great Neck, New York, and sentenced to 45 days in jail and a $17,000 fine.
Jacobi returned to the US last year under an agreement to surrender his passport. He did not answer any of the phone calls placed to properties listed to his name. The former Windsor Lounge is now the Hillspoint Hotel, which a spokesperson there said has had no relation to Jacobi for at least four years.