Today was the day of the latest “Free the Nipple” trial in New Hampshire’s Laconia district court. Though the ladies who protested the nipple ban in 2015 were found not guilty after a hilarious trial that I captured on video, this time around three of the ladies were found guilty for a topless event that happened in Laconia early in 2016. Both seemingly conflicting verdicts were given by the same judge. The ladies and their attorney intend to appeal.
Unfortunately I was not there to record today’s trial due to a car breakdown. I was told it was a very short event, as all the testimony in the case was given by the witnesses in a prior hearing in October on a motion by defense attorney Dan Hynes to dismiss the case. Thankfully, Free Keene blogger and legal expert Melanie Johnson was at the original hearing in October to take notes.
Though the very same judge, James M Carroll found the ladies who were topless in 2015 in Gilford not guilty on a technicality because NH is not a “home rule” state, this time he found the Laconia ladies guilty! Heidi Lilley, Kia Sinclair, and Ginger Pierro were sentenced to a $100 fine suspended given 12 months of good behavior.
In November of 2016 Carroll denied Hynes’ motion to dismiss saying that Laconia prosecutors had found an “enabling statute” that allowed the city to ban toplessness.
Since New Hampshire is not a “home rule” state, cities and towns are only supposed to be allowed to make things illegal that they’ve been enabled to prohibit specifically by the state legislature. According to the Concord Monitor’s Nick Reid, the prosecutors argued that RSA 47:17:XIII grants the town the right to regulate female toplessness. The statute does say that cities and towns can,
“regulate the times and places of bathing and swimming in the canals, rivers and other waters of the city, and the clothing to be worn by bathers and swimmers.”
Attorney Hynes, who is also a state representative, told me he’s disappointed in the court’s decision and intends to file an appeal with the NH supreme court. He’s previously stated the statute is unconstitutional and that he doesn’t believe banning female toplessness was the legislature’s intention. He says he’ll also be supporting legislation in 2018 to repeal the statute in question. Stay tuned here to Free Keene for the latest for this important equal rights case.