Prosecutors have decided not to file charges of soliciting a lewd act in public against Santee City Councilman Gerry Solomon, who was snared in an anti-prostitution sweep last month by an undercover La Mesa policewoman.
Lou Boyle, chief of the district attorney's East County division, said he was dropping the case because the "word game" that went on between Solomon and the police decoy just before his arrest was not explicit enough to convict the councilman.
Solomon, who has led the fight to ban topless bars and other adult entertainment locales from Santee, was arrested Aug. 16 shortly after noon on El Cajon Boulevard during one of the La Mesa Police Department's periodic "john operations."
Solomon was not available for comment Thursday. His attorney, Ronald Frant, said that the councilman "is happy the case has come to a quick determination. This has been a traumatic experience for him and it has been hanging over his head. It is now behind him, and he can go on conducting business like before."
Solomon will probably continue to be outspoken in his opposition to adult entertainment in Santee, Frant said. "He has taken a strong position with regard to that, and the mere fact of a citation is not going to change it," the lawyer said.
Neither Boyle nor Capt. Norm Ames, the acting La Mesa police chief, would reveal the exact exchange of words between Solomon and the undercover officer. But Boyle said that Solomon asked the policewoman--who, pretending to be a prostitute, had asked Solomon if he was a policeman--to lean into his car "so that he could touch her and prove to her that he was not a cop."
At that point, Boyle said, the arrest was made--not for soliciting a prostitute, since there had been no mention of money, but for soliciting a lewd act in public.
Boyle said that while there was nothing wrong with the arrest--"made under quick decision, field conditions and under the standard of probable cause"--the evidence with which he could prosecute the case was "just not there." A jury might not consider what Solomon asked the policewoman to do to have been a lewd act, he said.
"We operate under different standards here," Boyle said. "We have to be convinced we can prove the charges to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt."
Nine other men were arrested in the Aug. 16 sweep--all for soliciting a prostitute. The charges against two of them were also dropped.
Ames, however, said he was not satisfied with the district attorney's decision in Solomon's case.
"As far as we're concerned, the man is not guilty and the case is closed," Ames said. "We're not going to fight it. But I would feel better if they had let a judge and jury settle the issue of reasonable doubt. It's unfortunate that the case didn't go ahead. And given the same situation again, we would make another arrest."
The police chief said the department would carry out the undercover operations whenever there were enough complaints to warrant them.
"Our feeling is that if women can't walk the streets of La Mesa without being solicited, or having lewd comments thrown at them, then somebody's not doing their job," Ames said.