There appears to be a conflict afoot in Greenville, where the town fathers are sick and tired of hungry, naked diners in search of a free meal dashing into the great Moosehead Lake in full view of tourists and locals alike.
I can’t say I blame them.
The dash in may not be so bad, but a stark-naked man emerging from the cold waters of Moosehead? Let’s be truthful. That just ain’t gonna be a pretty sight no matter how beautiful a day it is in Piscataquis County.
Leigh Turner, owner of the Black Frog Restaurant, has been offering up a thinly sliced roast beef sandwich free to anyone willing to strip down, run down a walkway and ramp and jump off a barge into the lake. He says he gets a couple of takers a week.
Some in the town have never really liked the idea. The run for the lake puts the streakers in full view of tourists aboard the Katahdin sightseeing boat and families at a nearby town park.
Last August police summoned two men and one woman for indecent exposure after they took the plunge. They have pleaded not guilty and their trial is scheduled for Nov. 3.
This week, the town selectmen decided enough was enough and put it to Turner right where it hurts. They voted not to renew his liquor license unless he stopped his “skinny dip sandwich” promotion once and for all.
Greenville Police Chief Scott MacMaster, who said his name has been maligned throughout the world on the Internet because of his stance against the dippers, reminded a reporter that Turner was simply breaking the law.
“The violation that occurred is indecent conduct; indecent conduct is a Class E crime. It’s a misdemeanor. It’s the same classification as operating after suspension, disorderly conduct, engaging in prostitution and harassment,” the chief said in recommending the denial of the liquor license to selectmen.
So get that slab of prime rib ready, because here’s the rub.
While it clearly is against the law for men to trek around naked in public, it may just not be for the ladies.
With just a little tweaking, Turner may be able to still offer up his sweet deal of a free prime rib sandwich in exchange for a quick skinny-dip — but for ladies only.
I think that just works out better all the way around and there already is some legal precedent suggesting that it is indeed legally OK for the women of this state to take it to the streets in the buff.
In 2002 two rebellious young women who were students at the University of Maine decided to jog naked through town to protest federal legislation expanding police powers to counter terrorism.
An Orono police officer promptly arrested them. When one of the women tried to plead guilty to indecent exposure, one District Court judge raised some questions in the courtroom that prompted her to withdraw her plea.
The indecent-conduct law states that people are guilty of the crime if they knowingly and willingly show their genitalia in public. Russell questioned whether a woman running down the street actually showed her genitalia at all, if you define female “genitalia” by a medical dictionary.
Two weeks later, both women went on trial. They were not represented by an attorney and they asked one question of the state’s key witness, the arresting officer. One of the women asked him, “Did you actually see my genitalia that evening?”
“Not that I can recall,” he answered.
Judge Jesse Gunther dismissed the case and the charges against the women.
Prosecutors agreed that because women’s genitalia are internal that they would have to go to some lengths to actually show them in public. Gunther suggested that the Legislature might decide to tinker with the indecent-conduct statute.
The law remains the same.
If the judge up in Piscataquis County concurs with Judge Gunther, then it would pretty much slam the door on future arrests of naked women in public.
The women across the state could be eating all the free roast beef sandwiches they want, and with no risk of having to witness those naked men crawling out of the lake, Greenville’s tourism might really increase.