Adultery charge could get NY woman 90 days in jail

posted at 2:20 pm on June 11, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

It’s been 400 years since the days of Hester Prynne and Reverend Dimmesdale, but apparently not in New York.  A clear-cut case of public lewdness has transformed a Batavia woman from a head case to a test case after police charged her under Section 255.17 of the state’s penal code, which criminalizes adultery and carries a potential 90-day sentence if successfully prosecuted.  Is Suzanne Corona a victim of anachronistic and sexist laws, or does she get what she deserves for her outrageous conduct? Warning – the video is mildly NSFW (via The Week):

A married Batavia woman on Friday became the 13th New Yorker in nearly 40 years to be charged with adultery after police said they caught her having sex with a man in full view of children and their mothers at a Batavia playground.

Batavia police said they were called to Farrall Park about 5 p.m. by the mother of a small child who was visiting the park along with numerous other women and their children.

The woman reported two people were having sex on a picnic table under a pavilion.

Officer Matthew Baldwin arrived and charged Justin M. Amend, 29, of Oakfield, and Suzanne M. Corona, 41, with public lewdness, a misdemeanor.

Baldwin also charged Corona with adultery because he was aware that she was married, police said.

An act “involving kissing,” with Amend’s genitals exposed? Er, anyone want to guess what people saw in the park? Sounds like a full Billy Jeff without a cigar aperitif.

Why didn’t the police charge Amend with adultery?  He professed ignorance of Corona’s marital status.  That seems to me to be a case of prosecutorial discretion that didn’t get extended to Corona, who may well have been unaware that criminal sanctions still existed for sex outside of one’s marriage.  The question of violating the law would apply to both people involved in adultery, and intent should have been left to the courts — if, of course, the point was the enforcement of the adultery law instead of taking a punitive position in regard to the woman involved.

Without a doubt, both Corona and Amend should get prosecuted for public lewdness, and let a jury weigh the evidence.  Why two grown people found it necessary to put their oral copulation on display for an unwilling audience is beyond me.  If neither of them had the means to conduct their adultery in their homes, then they should have rented a hotel room — or,  better yet, reconsidered the entire affair.  A woman who acts in such a crass and disgusting manner hardly makes a sympathetic figure for a legal protest.

However, I have to agree with Jeanne Sager at The Stir that people have the “right” to select their own sex partners, within the bounds of age, consanguinity, and military discipline.  The violation in this act is really between the wife and her husband, who could choose to pursue a civil claim against both his wife and her lover if he so chooses (which so far in this case he doesn’t.)  I believe that laws do have a moral basis, but the morality is generally based on harm done to the community instead of disputes about bed partners.  I don’t condone adultery at all, but neither do I believe that the state should criminalize the act. We have government interfering in too many private transactions as it is.

What do you think?  Take the poll:

Update: In the comments, Jimbo3 gives the applicable statute for Amend’s defense:

255.20 Unlawfully procuring a marriage license, bigamy, adultery: defense.

In any prosecution for unlawfully procuring a marriage license, bigamy, or adultery, it is an affirmative defense that the defendant acted under a reasonable belief that both he and the other person to the marriage or prospective marriage or to the sexual intercourse, as the case may be, were unmarried.

If Corona told the police that she never informed Amend of her marital status, that would explain how Amend got off the hook.


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Comment pages: 1 2 3

Why didn’t the police charge Amend with adultery? He professed ignorance of Corona’s marital status. That seems to me to be a case of prosecutorial discretion that didn’t get extended to Corona, who may well have been unaware that criminal sanctions still existed for sex outside of one’s marriage.

She knew she was married, and the law’s on the books.

Let’s not enforce the laws against illegal immigrants niether, based on the “I don’t like the law” defense.

Akzed on June 12, 2010 at 12:50 PM

Officer Matthew Baldwin arrived and charged Justin M. Amend, 29, of Oakfield, and Suzanne M. Corona, 41, with public lewdness, a misdemeanor.

So does she get any consideration for being a way-hot cougar?

Her husband standing there by her side reminds me of McGreevy’s wife.

Akzed on June 12, 2010 at 12:54 PM

I believe that laws do have a moral basis, but the morality is generally based on harm done to the community instead of disputes about bed partners.

So an act potentially destructive of the community’s foundation -the family- is exempt?

Who are you trying to impress, Ed?

Akzed on June 12, 2010 at 12:57 PM

While I don’t condone the act of adultery, I don’t think the wife should be charged with it as a criminal offense either. Public lewdness I can understand. As far as I’m concerned, that should all be left up to the hubby and wife to deal with, and decide if a divorce is in order. Adultery may be reprehensible, but there are far worse crimes than that.

If this were in the UAE though, chances are this case would turn out much worse, and the woman would be victimized full force.

Avi Green on June 12, 2010 at 3:43 PM

Think NY’s law is extreme? Try NC’s; they criminalize fornication, too.

Xrlq on June 12, 2010 at 4:36 PM

As far as the law being declared unconstitutional, I would imagine one of the issues would be the couple’s expectation of privacy. In this case – none.

But also irrelevant to the adultery charge.

I doubt there’d be too many attorneys willing to invest the time and effort to appeal the case, should she be convicted.

I disagree. There is no shortage of attorneys who’d kill for the notoriety they’d get by defending this piece of work at any stage of trial. And there are decent appellate lawyers who care not a whit for her or for publicity, but DO care about the craptastic precedent they’d be saddled with in future cases if she appealed on her own and lost.

Xrlq on June 12, 2010 at 6:00 PM

Try NC’s; they criminalize fornication, too.

Actually, that’s true in a number of states.

oldleprechaun on June 12, 2010 at 6:34 PM

I wish I was the guy on the park table/bench. :-(

Narutoboy on June 12, 2010 at 8:28 PM

I believe that laws do have a moral basis, but the morality is generally based on harm done to the community instead of disputes about bed partners.

So an act potentially destructive of the community’s foundation -the family- is exempt?

Who are you trying to impress, Ed?

Akzed on June 12, 2010 at 12:57 PM

.
Thank you Akzed.
.
This assertion of Ed’s seems so thoughtless, shallow, wrongheaded, disconnected from normal adult experience it seems almost surreal! Is our host having a really bad day? Is this typical of the kind of thinking Social-Libs and Libertarians have to offer their fellow Americans on matters involving sex?
.
This women is married, she has children and some are unable to detect harm done to the community!
This is truly stunning! … and sad.

Mike OMalley on June 12, 2010 at 10:29 PM

I can see charging the trollop with child endangerment for humping in front of the kiddos, but adultery? Where are we, Saudi Arabia?

Oh, wait. This happened in New York. Nevermind.

madmonkphotog on June 13, 2010 at 9:28 AM

Perhaps if we don’t like the NY law, we should boycott the state? Maybe get Eric Holder to “look into” this ill-advised law, (without reading it of course). Let’s get a bus-load of leftist thugs to Albany! What are we waiting for?

virgo on June 13, 2010 at 12:14 PM

Marriage is supposed to mean something, both privately & publicly. Society has an interest in seeing that that meaning is protected and buttressed.

thegreatbeast on June 13, 2010 at 12:45 PM

Let’s notch this Puritanism up another level:

Tie her up, toss her in the river; if she floats, she’s a witch and should be burned. Yeah!

EarthToZoey on June 13, 2010 at 9:22 PM

Comment pages: 1 2 3