Supreme Court: Mannequin sex doesn’t equal indecent exposure

(by Terry Woster)

PIERRE – A Sioux Falls man caught in the Washington Pavilion having simulated sex with a mannequin didn’t commit a crime of indecent exposure, the state Supreme Court says.

In a decision released Thursday, the court reversed the conviction of Michael James Plenty Horse, who was found in the late afternoon of Nov. 14, 2005, lying on top of a mannequin in the Alumni Room of the Pavilion.

A security guard surprised Plenty Horse, the record says. He lay with his pants partially down on a mannequin which had its band uniform partially removed. He was 19 at the time.

The Supreme Court unanimously reversed a misdemeanor conviction, saying the state’s indecent exposure statute “criminalizes sexual gratification by displaying or showing one’s genitals in public.”

The evidence failed to show that Plenty Horse was trying to display himself in public. It was almost closing at the Pavilion, and no other patrons were around when the guard found the man.

The court said Plenty Horse’s action, “lewd though it may be, does not fall within the purview of the indecent exposure statute.”

Had the conviction stood, the man would have been required to register as a sex offender, the record said.

The Alumni Room, the court record says, is a third-floor space containing high school mementos and photos honoring students who attended Washington High School.

The record says that when a guard, checking the room because a usually open door was closed, found Plenty Horse, the young man “rolled off the mannequin, turned away and began adjusting his pants. … When questioned about what he was doing, defendant, visibly ashamed, declined to talk about it.”

A magistrate found Plenty Horse guilty of indecent exposure. He received a suspended imposition of sentence and was placed on supervised probation for three years. A circuit court upheld his conviction, which led to his appeal to the Supreme Court on an assertion that there was insufficient evidence to convict him on the charge.

The court record says Plenty Horse’s lawyer “conceding that having sex in public with a mannequin would likely offend people,” contended that the defendant didn’t “flash” or expose his genitals.

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