Held in place (and in a blanket) by blue-gloved Deschutes County Jail guards, Terri Sue Webb, appearing in court via video hookup, learned Friday that she would be undergoing more mental treatment for her refusal to stop taking off her clothes in public – and she made clear that she didn’t like it one bit.
After a closed-door mental commitment hearing, Circuit Judge Michael Sullivan dismissed the probation violation charges brought earlier in the week, but only because of his earlier decision – with a reporter asked to leave the room due to confidentiality rules – that she be placed in the custody of county mental health officials and apparently be taken for treatment to the Oregon State Hospital in Salem.
The decision came a week after Sullivan had agreed to dismiss a disorderly conduct charge, in return for Webb’s guilty plea to a second-degree trespass charge in connection with a recent incident in which she disrobed at the Westside Tavern and refused to get dressed, or to leave. But her terms of probation included a requirement that she stop her public nudity, and she objected in court – then promptly got arrested again Monday morning, at Drake Park, in the nude.
She was due for arraignment Tuesday, but that was postponed to Friday because, as District Attorney Mike Dugan put it, “she would not put on her clothes and told corrections officers that she would fight them if they tried to dress her.” It was decided that she would appear by live TV hookup from the jail for Friday’s hearing.
Webb’s attorney, Alanna Brenneman, appeared for the court session and subsequent mental health hearing, as did public defender Carla Nash, who reminded the judge that mental hearings are closed to the public. Laurie Craghead, county deputy legal counsel, also appeared in court for the commitment proceedings.
’Why are you trying to ruin my life?’
“Prosecution of mere nudity is an expression of racial hatred toward the human race,” Webb told the judge as the court hearing resumed.
“Ma’am, I don’t hate you,” Sullivan replied.
“Then why are you trying to ruin my life?” Webb asked. The judge denied he was doing so, but Webb continued: “I am perfectly fine.”
“Ma’am, I hope you will take your medication,” Sullivan said, urging the woman to follow the directions of corrections officers as well. “It’s too late now – I’m going to this hospital,” she said. “What do I do about my apartment in the meantime?”
Webb was told by Nash that state law limits such commitments to a maximum of 180 days from the original commitment, which in this case would be mid-August, since that step was taken in mid-February.
“I’m trying to go the extra distance to get (matters resolved),” the judge told Webb as the hearing concluded.
On cold Monday morning Webb defied judge’s no-public nudity order
On Monday, a passer-by walking to work by Drake Paerk said he saw Webb wrapped in a blanket, likely provided by police.
“We got a call, a guy called (911) dispatch and said there’s a nude lady in the park,” said Bend police Sgt. Rex Catt. “One of our officers went down there and contacted her by the river, in the park near the amphitheater. She had her hat and boots on, and that was it,” despite chilly temperatures Catt estimated at “38, 40 degrees.”
“She came along peacefully,” and was alone this time, Catt said – unlike last Thursday’s 10-minute walk from her house to the county courthouse that led to her arrest with an equally nude male companion on disorderly conduct charges.
Dugan called it likely the court would order Webb to serve the 30-day jail term she had avoided on the second-degree trespass charge she pleaded guilty to, in exchange for the dismissal of a disorderly conduct charge dating back to one of her nude bicycling forays last summer.
“The real difficulty you have in these types of cases is that when somebody is in a mental health … kind of need, jail is not the place for them,” Dugan said.
DA had agreed not to press charges from Thursday’s incident
After Circuit Judge Michael Sullivan agreed on May 3 to a plea deal between prosecutors and Webb – issuing an order that she no longer appear nude in public – Dugan said his office wouldn’t press charges for the prior day’s naked protest stroll by Webb and a male friend.
While waist, hand and leg shackles likely helped to keep the Bend woman in her blue jail uniform for the May 3 court appearance – unlike last fall’s courthouse disrobing – she visibly, vocally chafed and vowed to appeal one of the probation conditions Sullivan imposed: no more public disrobing.
“There will be no public nudity by you,” Sullivan told Webb, 24 hours after she and a friend, Daniel Johnson of Seattle, walked from her home to the county courthouse and back in the altogether, drawing big-time media attention – and their arrest – while prompting a one-day postponement of her plea hearing.
After Friday’s hearing, Dugan issued a statement outlining the conditions laid down by Sullivan and saying that “all other charges stemming from her unwillingness to wear clothes in public are being dismissed.”
“The purpose of judicial intervention is three-fold: 1, to hold accountable the person who violates the law; 2, to provide protection to the community from further law violations, and 3, to provide the offender an opportunity to comply with the law.”
“Given the results of today’s sentencing, I believe that we have accomplished these goals with Ms. Webb,” Dugan wrote. “Consequently, our office will not be filing additional charges connected with her `civil disobedience’ in front of the courthouse on Thursday.”
DA also won’t charge Webb’s nude-walk companion
Charges also won’t be filed against Johnson, the district attorney added, noting that “he is a journalist who has, at worst, exploited Ms. Web, and at best has obtained a story for his magazine.”
The pair were released from jail after their already-scheduled Friday court appearance. Asked what could happen in the future, should Webb disobey the judge’s no-public nudity order, the DA said, “She could be put in jail for 30 days,” as the original trespass charge would have allowed.
Despite a bit of debate at the May 3 hearing between judge and defendant (with lawyer Brenneman weighing in on her behalf), the deal worked out earlier for Webb managed to stick after all, despite Thursday’s protest walk.
Webb pleaded guilty to a second-degree criminal trespassing charge resulting from an April 9 incident in which she visited the Westside Tavern, took off her clothes and refused to leave.
In exchange for the guilty plea, the prosecution (in the form of Deputy District Attorney Kandy Gies) and judge agreed to drop the disorderly conduct charge brought last summer during one of Webb’s frequent nude bicycle trips.
Sullivan also imposed three years probation upon Webb, already on probation through November for the disorderly conduct conviction last fall. She will be required to report to a probation officer for the first 18 months of the new probation term, then go on “bench probation” with the court for the second half (unless circumstances change).
Judge says Webb can appeal no-nudity condition – but must abide by it in meantime
In telling Webb she must stay clothed in public, he added, “To be more specific, you are not to be in a public area with your breasts and genitals exposed.”
After one of several whispered discussions with her lawyer, Brenneman told Sullivan that her client did “not agree with the condition that she not engage in public nudity.” The judge was ready with an answer.
“You are entitled to an appeal if you so desire,” Sullivan told Webb, advising her she has 30 days to appeal his ruling to the Oregon Court of Appeals. (She has appealed a contempt of court conviction related to her decision to strip down in court last November.)
“Ma’am, I hope you will follow the conditions of probation,” the judge said, warning that the consequences of not doing so could be “significant.”
Sullivan led Webb through the plea petition, noting that prosecutors were not asking for imposition of any more jail time. He gave Webb time to read the entire document, after she said she’d read only parts of it, then asked several questions, including whether she was on any drugs or intoxicants.
“You had a different kind of hearing before me” recently, the judge said, an apparent reference to a more troublesome initial appearance on the trespass charge. Sullivan also noted that the trespass charge could allow for a sentence of up to 30 days in jail and a $1,000 fine, and that he was not bound by the deal worked out between lawyers.
“I feel it’s fairly simple, in that I was asked to leave (the bar) and did not,” Webb said.
Prosecutor: `Countless’ citizens have called 911, authorities to express offense
Gies, the prosecutor, pointed out that “there have been numerous incidents, beginning last summer” of Webb appearing naked in public. “There have been countless citizens calling in to (911) dispatch … offended by the defendant’s conduct,” she said, adding that there also was “traffic disrupted” by her self-exposure.
“Nobody has been able to get her” to stop taking such actions, Gies said, adding that “neighbors were offended” when she came outside of her apartment in common areas, in the nude.
“The state’s goal in negotiating this case is to set up a scenario in which the defendant will not walk around naked in public,” Gies said, explaining the request for 36-monthprobation and that Webb be “required to wear clothing at any time she is in public or in view of the public, specifically to keep her breasts and genitals covered.”
While not requesting jail time, the prosecutor said, “Based on the number of complaints that have been called in, it’s clear that the defendant’s actions are having an impact on the community.”
Brenneman asked that her client simply be required to complete her current probation period under the terms laid down last fall. “She believes that any additional probation is not necessary,” the lawyer said, and that “her actions are protected by the First Amendment.”
“There is no law on the books to make” public nudity illegal, Brenneman said. “Any policy at this time is a policy of moral and social concern, which is not the (role) of police officers” to enforce. “She (Webb) does not believe any further conditions (of parole) are necessary.”
Activist tells judge `legal and harmless’ nudity has `more positive than negative’ effects
Webb then got to speak to the judge about what she had heard: “I would say … that my actions have more positive benefits than negative ones,” Webb said, calling the probation condition a “very definite violation of my constitutional rights, and my rights as a human.” She called her public nudity “legal and harmless… a state of being a human being.”
At one point, Sullivan asked Webb, “How are you doing on your own?” (Apparently, she earlier had been living at Park Place, a group home for people with mental problems.)
“I’m doing quite well,” the woman said, stating that she is taking her prescribed medications, as directed by her mental health counselor. One condition Sullivan imposed is that Webb must continue to take all medication as directed. But Webb, ever the civil activist, added, “There’s other people in the world who do exactly the same thing and do not have to take drugs.”
“It’s an issue that affects all humanity,” Webb said.
After imposing the no-nudity probation condition, Sullivan told Webb, “You are entitled to your point of view” regarding public nudity, but he added that “it could be argued you are being exploited. I guess we’ll see.”
Webb and her lawyer indicated that indeed, the condition would be appealed, but Sullivan warned that Webb must abide by that condition until and unless a higher court overturns it, or she runs the risk of probation violation.
Pressing her point, Webb told Sullivan that her state of public (un)dress is “a perfectly legal state of being,” then added, “Actually, I’m not clear, what do you mean by `public’?”
“If you are in a public street (or) area,” the judge said. What about the common areas around her apartment complex, Webb asked? That, too, is a public area, he advised Webb, who said she would “probably be back here” on that condition. “This is the truth,” Webb said.
“I wish you luck,” Sullivan told Webb as the hearing ended.
She wore cowboy boots, he wore sandals, both wore backpacks
Cameras – of course – and reporters trailed behind and circled around Webb and her friend Thursday morning when they went for a stroll from Webb’s home to the nearby courthouse. He wore sandals, she wore brown cowboy boots and a stocking cap.
And nothing else. (Unless you count their backpacks.)
Indeed, for reasons you can debate all day and night, naked people in public tend to draw attention, even though getting undressed is something we do every day of our lives, in private. (Usually followed quite quickly by putting something else on.)
That said, it’s somewhat amazing that, despite a public pronouncement (via flyer on the Pizza Mondo bulletin board) entitled: “ALL HUMANS: NAKED PROTEST MAY 02,” that Webb, who gained a fair amount of worldwide notoriety last November for disrobing in the courtroom of Deschutes County Circuit Judge Barbara Haslinger, and her partner in civil disobedience got as far as they did this sunny, cool but comfortable late spring morning.
Oh, there were stares, double-takes and chuckles galore, to be sure. But no tire squeals, honking horns or shouts of support (or offense, for that matter) during the couple’s six-block, 10-minute walk that ended just as you might have expected – with four sheriff’s and Bend police cars on hand at an auto parts store parking lot on Greenwood, where both Webb and Johnson were arrested on disorderly conduct and “obstruction of government administration” charges.
But not before Webb, 27, dropped her sign, reached into her backpack and pulled out a large American flag that she draped around her body, while Johnson, also 27, reached into his backpack for some Joe Boxer briefs to slip on.
The couple, lodged in the county jail on $3,500 bail, were charged not only with disorderly conduct but “obstruction of governmental administration,” also a Class A misdemeanor, officials said. Dugan said that had to do with the fact they “obstructed the justice of a scheduled court hearing by showing up naked and picketing the courthouse in a manner that” led to her arrest, which meant “she could not complete the governmental function,” meaning her trial.
Ten-minute stroll to courthouse and back almost ended without incident – but police showed
Still, what does it say about Bend, for better or worse, that the pair – Webb holding up her protest sign, emblazoned “Human” on one side, “Being Human is Not a Crime!” on the other – were able to walk unimpeded up Kearney Street, then Greenwood Avenue, up Bond Street in front of the Justice Center and the county courthouse, then back down Bond Street and almost back to Webb’s home, where her attorney, Alana Brenneman, said later she had planned to get dressed for a scheduled 9:30 a.m. trial?
Does it speak to our general blasÃ© attitude, our respect for differences of opinion, or our inability to take in such side-of-the-road details as we drive to work, espresso in one hand, cell phone in the other?
It sounded like a negotiated plea deal for Webb was dead in the water, but that turned out not to be the case.
Last summer, after some notable nude bicycle trips around town that gave her the moniker “naked bicycle lady,” Webb was arrested on the disorderly conduct charge involving a July 18 trip down Brooks Street that, according to the DA’s information, “did unlawfully and with intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance and alarm, obstruct vehicular traffic on a public way…”
She was back on her bike, in the buff, the day after Sept. 11, again causing quite the stir. According to The Bulletin, Webb told an officer “she was just trying to celebrate life and did not mean to offend anybody.” And that incident brought no charges, since nobody filed a formal complaint. But Officer Mike Hartman said he told her that she’d be arrested, should she cause traffic problems again.
Brenneman told the paper that the case didn’t fit the definition of disorderly conduct, as they “did not cause the public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm.”
Then came Webb’s now-infamous Nov. 8 court appearance, when cameras happened to be in the courtroom and watched her walk into the courtroom naked except for cowboy boots (red, this time) and a length of fabric she moved around. Webb was released from jail the next day after being cited for contempt of court. Haslinger ordered one year of supervised probation and a mental health evaluation – and that she appear appropriately dressed in court, the next time. Otherwise, she’d face up to 29 days in jail.
Waiting deal involved guilty plea on Westside Tavern incident – but all bets off now
The trial was set for Jan. 23, but delayed until Thursday because the arresting officer was on three months’ maternity leave. (Not, as some tongues wagged, because May would provide a warmer climate for Webb – although, as it turned out, it surely did.)
“I am confident that when people hear about this, I can ease their fear about the human body” being displayed in public, Webb said during Thursday’s walk. “It should be unusual” to see such a sight in public, she added.
A few minutes later, as three men stood atop the courthouse steps, taking in the passing parade, Webb called to them – not shouting, exactly, but in a loud, friendly voice: “Why are you all watching? You are humans too! Come join us!” (Asked if they would take Webb up on the offer, they could only laugh.)
Undersheriff Larry Blanton and other deputies and city officers advised the reporters and camera folks to stay back during the arrest, as Webb pleaded her case and said she’d done nothing illegal. “Would someone get my backpack?” Johnson said as his hands were cuffed behind him.
Objecting to public nudity is `irrational,’ Webb says in magazine article
Johnson, Webb’s protest partner this day, is not just a friend: He wrote a lengthy article about her case and background that ran in a recent issue of “Nude and Natural” magazine, a quarterly publication from the Naturist Society (http://www.naturistsociety.com).
“Oregon Woman Seeks Freedom to Be Herself,” the headline read, referring to Webb as “one of a small number of international activists who are aggressively rousing the sleeping giant of public body freedom and celebration. She challenges the rest of us to reassess our level of commitment to the public expression of our naturist beliefs.”
“To be offended by the visual appearance of another person is prejudice, akin to racism,” Webb told Johnson in the article. “The right to exist uncovered should hold precedence of the right not to view (nudity) for the objection is irrational.”
The flyer Webb posted downtown apparently didn’t bring any new supporters to her side for Thursday’s protest march, although another friend, Moses Williams, was shirtless as he used a video camera to document the events of the morning.
Mark Storey, a director of the Naturist Action Committee (http://www.nac.oshkosh.net), said he wanted to be on hand but had other commitments.
“As a naturist, I’m in support of her ideals,” Storey said. “I see no problem with non-erotic nudity.”
As for Webb’s supposed mental problems – The Source reported that she has spent time not just in jail but a state mental hospital – Storey said, “Authorities say if you’re nude in public, you are `bi-polar,’ which is totally absurd. She may be clinically bi-polar, I don’t know, but just because someone is making a claim about the goodness of the human body doesn’t make them mentally ill.”
Protest activism extends beyond nudity to bicycles, environment
Webb also is appealing the contempt of court claim – in a unique way, according to Storey. “She’s saying that since she’s being accused of indecent exposure, to force her to wear clothes is prejudicing the case. I don’t know of anyone else taking that line. I don’t know if it’s going to work.” Storey said the Naturist Action Committee had offered to help Webb financially but was rebuffed.
Johnson’s article noted that Webb began her activist work after earning a degree in biology from Reed College in Portland in 1998. “She believes that people should be able to do whatever they want, as long as no one is harmed,” he wrote.
Webb was involved in Critical Mass, an international pro-bicycle movement, and began taking part in the en masse rides topless (“top-free,” in Johnson’s words). The following summer, still living in Eugene, she moved some construction barricades out into a street and ran around in a bright orange safety vest, meeting cars head on and delivering messages to the drivers.
In November 1999, Webb said she was detained and questioned by the FBI during Seattle’s anti-World Trade Organization protest. She later was stopped for jaywalking and charged with providing false information to a police officer when she failed to provide her name. She was jailed for three days, along with dozens of other women booked as “Jane WTO,” and eventually released without charge.
While much of her protest involvement isn’t about nudity, Webb said, “There is nothing inherently sexual about being without clothes. To say (there is) presents an extremely limited view on the function of our bodies, our selves.”
When Johnson interviewed Webb for the article, he wrote she was “weighing whether she will appear naked in court a second time,” despite the judge’s warning. As she put it: “The judge has ordered that I appear appropriately dressed in court or face jail time. I was `appropriately dressed’ for the occasion the first time!”
Webb clothes herself in U.S. flag before police take her away
Word of what Webb did last fall in court spread far and wide. In the court files is a letter of support to Judge Haslinger, from Rodger Whitney of New Bern, N.C., who wrote, “Being nude is about as natural as one can get. It is at least as natural as being gay, which is protected under several laws. Second, in light of recent court rulings, nudity is probably protected under freedom of speech and/or freedom of religion,”
“I understand that your honor may have taken her appearance in your court nude as a sign of disrespect,” Whitney wrote. “Actually, it is a sign of deep respect and trust. I believe it was done to celebrate the handiwork of God, in whose image we are all created. What greater respect can have been shown?”
As Webb sat in the back of a Bend police car, still wrapped in her American flag, Williams, her videographer friend, acknowledged that he had joined in the trespass charge over the Westside Tavern incident, but that the business had offered to drop the charges, too late to keep the wheels of justice from turning.
Williams said both he and the bartender had asked her to put her clothes back on, to avoid problems with the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. But she refused.
“I don’t think she’s going to change her behavior,” Williams said. “She has legal grounds not to wear clothing in public. … The First Amendment protects her.”
But he added, “I feel like the city is having to walk a fine line. Terry has the right to be naked, and the city is trying to appease the public.”
Brenneman expressed sympathy to his and Webb’s views, as she has in the past. But amid the commotion, with Webb sitting in the police car, Brenneman told Williams at one point that as Webb’s lawyer, “I can’t do what you are doing. I can’t take the stance that you are taking” – and still fulfill her court obligations to the best of her abilities.