- The Washington Times - Monday, November 25, 2002

Prince William County residents near Conway Robinson State Park say that homosexual men continue to go there for public sex, despite the recent sentencing of more than 50 people arrested in stings during the summer.
"I think it's worse than it was before," said Deedee Schaeffer, co-owner of a diner near the 400-acre, unstaffed reserve on Route 28 in Manassas. "They're just slapping them on the wrists."
Prince William County officials said most of the men were charged with misdemeanors and received probation or one-year jail sentences that were suspended or reduced to 10 days. They also paid fines of $120 to $200.
However, one man was charged with a felony count for sodomy and received a suspended sentence of five years. Five other men also face felony charges that carry sentences of one to five years in jail, officials said.
The arrests follow undercover stings in May and August by state police who arrested the men on charges including criminal solicitation, disorderly conduct, indecent exposure, sodomy and assault and battery, officials said.
The troopers said that some of the men grabbed and groped them during the arrests, and that they were occasionally assaulted while trying to serve the arrest warrants.
The stings occurred after Boy Scouts working on their merit badges found a used condom and observed men engaging in sexual activity in the park.
If the men are caught returning to the park or the Manassas Battlefield State Park or the rest stops near the Fairfax County line on Route 66, they will have to serve the remainder of their suspended sentences and could face additional trespassing charges that would add a year to their prison terms, said Prince William County Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Claiborne T. Richardson II.
Miss Schaeffer thinks the sentences will make no difference.
"It would if the penalty were more harsh," she said. "But they're not getting anything."
Residents say they are not comfortable visiting the park.
"It's a shame," said 66-year-old Roy Dennis, who has lived in the area for 33 years. "That's a good little park. It's a shame you cannot use it for what it's supposed to be used for. You've got a group of individuals doing acts that you don't want your children to come across."
Mr. Richardson thinks the penalties will make a difference.
"Judges have been stating they felt this was a strong enough deterrent, and they've made open statements in court that if [the men] are found in those areas they have no problem giving them the rest of these sentences, and that they will do whatever is necessary to give these places back to the public," he said.
Police continue to investigate the problem.
"We anticipate future operations at different times, wherever our services are requested, until the problem is solved," said Lucy Caldwell, state police spokeswoman.


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