Naked Coffee Guy Truth Exposed

Eric Williamson Naked Coffee Guy PhotoYesterday, Radley Balko passed on the story of Eric Williamson, the Springfield, Virginia man who has been charged with indecent exposure for being naked in his own house.    According to Williamson’s version of events, he was making coffee at 5:30 in the morning when a woman and her 7-year-old cut across his yard and spied him through a window and called the cops.

Radley joked, “Fairfax police say Williamson wanted to be seen naked. Which I guess means Williamson’s front yard is a pretty popular spot at 5:30 in the morning.”

Via AllahPundit, here’s the Fox News report, with Williamson expressing his surprise and outrage over the arrest:

Well, now it seems that the facts are in dispute.

The woman told police it was 8:40 a.m. when she was walking her son to school along a path between houses. She said they first spotted Williamson naked in an open door in the car port of his home.

She also told police that Williamson then walked across the house to a large window, facing the way she was walking.

If it’s 8:40 in the morning — it’s light out in these parts by 7 — and he’s in front of an open door, his claim to being in the privacy of his own home minding his business is seriously damaged.  And if he saw the mother and boy and then ran in front of a large window to further expose himself to them, he’s almost certainly committed a crime.

Radley, who wrote a new post updating the story, disagrees:

Given that she was apparently on his property (that part of the story hasn’t yet been disputed), and he was in his home the entire time, I’m not sure his exact position in his own home matters, unless he was otherwise in plain view of someone using the public sidewalk. Even then, it seems more like tacky behavior than behavior that should be criminal. And you’d think the guy would get a warning before you arrest him for nudity in his own house.

He admits this is all rather peculiar:

The guy does seem strange. A roommate says he was acting oddly, walking around all morning wearing nothing but a construction hat. But again, strange behavior needn’t be a crime punishable by a year in jail (if the roommate had reported unwanted nudity, that might be a different matter). Seems like a sensible policy would be that once you walk into someone’s yard and look inside their home, you can’t claim to be victimized by what you might see.

If you’re in your own house but standing naked in  an open door visible to the public — the path between these houses is apparently a common walkway used by neighborhood kids going to school — your expectation of privacy is seriously diminished.  Ditto standing naked in front of an uncovered window at 8:40 in the morning.

Williamson wasn’t, say, emerging naked from bed and walking down to start the coffee in the interior of his home.  If someone happened to catch a shadowy glimpse under such circumstances, I’d completely agree with Radley’s view of the situation.   For that matter, if he was standing naked in his carport doorway at 5:30 in the morning to smoke a cigarette and some earlybird neighbors walked by, the most I’d expect would be for police to issue him a friendly warning.  But, if the accuser’s version of events is accurate — and I’m inclined to believe it was given the reaction of the roommates — then Williamson was willfully committing indecent exposure to small children.   That’s not, in my judgment, worth a year in jail on first offense.  But it’s not innocent behavior, either.

As an aside, I’m rather amused at the caption on the WTOP photo.  What has his growing up in Hawaii to do with anything?  Do they have different customs there on nudity?  Or is he actually a Kenyan citizen whose citizenship is in question?  If so, perhaps he’ll be deported.

FILED UNDER: General, Law and the Courts, , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. markm says:

    What has his growing up in Hawaii to do with anything? Do they have different customs there on nudity? Or is he actually a Kenyan citizen whose citizenship is in question?

    LOL!.

  2. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    I think the woman and her son were casing the place for a planned future burglary. A quick check of the police report will indicate what time the call from the potential burglar was made.
    I’ll bet this one bites the police as unless they can prove intent, that might include proof you could expect to be visible from other than his property. A person in their home has an expectation of privacy. Seems like the first offense might be trespassing.

  3. Our Paul says:

    As a true libertarian (not to many of us left) and a firm believer in the rule of law, only a prude would agree with our host.

    First of all, the women was trespassing on the man’s property.

    Second of all, by bringing along a child, she was contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

    Third, she was a peeping Jane. Had she not looked into the window of a private residence, she would not have been scandalized. Any psychologist worth his salt, testifying for the defense, would rip her testimony to pieces, guilty pleasures and all that…

    The fact that the man was naked probably saved her life. In this clothing state, he is unable to carry a concealed weapon and thus defend his property.

    As I pointed out yesterday, in a different post: res ipsa loquitur, or in the vulgar English language, “the thing itself speaks,” but is more often translated “the thing speaks for itself.”

    The “thing” in this case being a naked man, in his own home, not the appendage that drove our peeping Jane to such guilty pleasure that to relieve the ying yang of her psychic turmoil she reported her own multifaceted crime to the police.

  4. odograph says:

    Heh, I’ve faced this dilemma, and considered the window angles on the way to my coffee maker(*)

    * – actually, a kettle and manual-drip rock

  5. JKB says:

    What keeps being danced around is whether the man was visible casual observers in places in which others may lawfully be, i.e., a public sidewalk, neighbors property, etc. Even in the original 5:40 am/cutting between the houses scenario he has a problem if people traversing the area was common or it is public access. Given the implication of intent, I would expect the 8:40 am scenario is more accurate. Intent would imply he did not take measures to coverup when realizing he was being observed.

  6. John Burgess says:

    This all comes down to the wording of the specific law Williamson is alleged to have broken. Some states, some counties, do not criminalize being naked in your own home, no matter who might see you. Others extend it to one’s entire property, i.e., nude sunbathing on your lawn is protected. A few wacky places up in New England (NH? ME?) actually allow for full nudity in all public places.

    Clearly this is not the case in Springfield, VA, so I’d like to know exactly what the law there criminalizes/protects.

    By my lights, if he was in his own home, then it’s up to the person being offended to not look in windows if they don’t want to be offended.

  7. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Since the police entered his home while he was sleeeping (he claims) they must have obtained a search warrant. I would love to see the petition for the warrant.

  8. bennie says:

    Slow… freaking… news… day

    NEXT!!!!

  9. Janis Gore says:

    My guess is that Hawaii does have different standards of nudity from those in Alabama or Virginia. It’s a warm island state, for goodness’ sake.

    And I read somewhere that this guy makes a living as a commercial diver. He’s a water baby.

    If he’s not an habitual offender, cut him some slack.

    Me, I’ve seen them thangs before.

  10. gamma47 says:

    He was naked and drunk in his own home! *GASP* Send the puritan patrol immediately!

    This trespassing, voyeuristic bi*ch is wasting taxpayer’s dollars. She’s a cop’s wife, of course, so her version of the truth is obviously correct!

  11. Grewgills says:

    What has his growing up in Hawaii to do with anything? Do they have different customs there on nudity?

    Relative to the southeast, most certainly. California is somewhere in between the two.

    In HI it is not viewed as odd to change for the beach on the beach. Most people wrap in a towel, but not all and no one much cares. Children up to four or five are regularly naked at the local beaches as well. I can’t say that I’ve seen that at Gulf Shores.

    Nudity is not inherently sexual and we should not have to shield ourselves our our children from it.

  12. MattT says:

    If you’re in your own house but standing naked in an open door visible to the public….your expectation of privacy is seriously diminished. Ditto standing naked in front of an uncovered window at 8:40 in the morning.

    The issue is not Naked Coffee Guy’s expectation of privacy. He’s not the complainant here.

  13. James Joyner says:

    The issue is not Naked Coffee Guy’s expectation of privacy. He’s not the complainant here.

    I’m not using it in the 4th Amendment ConLaw sense just colloquially as a stand-in for “I’m in my own home and can do what I want.” Standing in an open door makes you much less “in your own home.”

  14. gVOR08 says:

    Joyner–was there some reason you thought I should be aware of this neighborhood news story?

  15. David says:

    Mr. Joyner, the woman walking by at 8:40 in the morning doesn’t make this man MORE guilty, it makes him LESS. It’s FAR FAR easier to see into someone’s windows when it’s dark outside. And this “walking path” was more than 100 feet from the “door” she supposedly saw him in. I suggest you go stand 100 feet from your house at 8:30 in the morning, look in your own windows and see how much you can see.