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Sex club for gays raided; managers arrested, released

Phoenix, Arizona- Phoenix police raided another social club for swingers and jailed two of its operators, the second enforcement action in less than a week against establishments that allow patrons to openly engage in sex acts.

Acting on a tip, authorities last Friday night targeted Chute Inc. at 14th Street and Indian School Road, taking two managers into custody on misdemeanor violations of the city’s ordinance against operating a business where live sex acts occur. The club, geared toward homosexual patrons, was not shut down by police, and none of the two dozen clients was arrested because the law pertains only to operators of the business, police said.

The managers at Chute, identified by police as Scott Griswold, 37, and Todd Green, 44, have been released from Madison Street Jail. Green declined to comment Tuesday, saying he did not wish to discuss the case before hiring an attorney. Chute’s owner did not return messages left at the club.

The hotly contested raids have prompted legal challenges and bitter debates sparked by First Amendment advocates who claim authorities are enforcing an unconstitutional ordinance that violates the right to free expression. Critics say the ordinance, adopted five years ago, is enforced unfairly and argue that police resources should be used for investigating violent crimes, not targeting the half-dozen Valley clubs known to police that allow patrons to engage in sex.

Authorities and city leaders argue that the clubs fly in the face of the community’s morals and endanger public health. Violating the ordinance is a misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a fine.

The debate gained momentum after the Dec. 6 arrest of a manager at Club Chameleon, a business catering to heterosexual swingers engaging in sex. The club’s owner previously filed a $500,000 claim against the city charging malicious prosecution and false arrest, and an attorney for the club believes the raid was revenge for the claim.

“They’re enforcing the law in a discriminatory manner, and they’re enforcing it simply to retaliate against people,” said Phoenix attorney Nicholas Hentoff, who represents Club Chameleon.

Hentoff also said authorities have avoided raiding gay sex clubs to dodge the perception that police are targeting homosexuals.

But Phoenix Assistant City Attorney James Hays said the half-dozen swingers clubs in the Valley have been treated equally, regardless of their affiliations with heterosexual or gay clients.

“We made an effort to ensure that our enforcement of a recognized group is not perceived as being targeted. At the moment, the homosexual clubs and the heterosexual clubs are being treated the same,” Hays said.

Chute has been the target of previous enforcement efforts, including a raid last year that resulted in the arrest of a club operator. Authorities also conducted a compliance check last year at a gay club known as Flex, but the establishment was not violating the ordinance, Hays said.

Before Friday night’s raid, Chute was found to be in compliance with the law during enforcement efforts conducted after last year’s arrest, Phoenix police Sgt. Randy Force said.

 

 

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