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Trial Begins For Breast-Baring Women

September 15, 1986

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) _ One of seven women being tried for stripping to the waist in a city park protest testified Monday that they had acted in the spirit of women’s suffrage pioneer Susan B. Anthony, also a Rochester resident.

″I find it totally absurd that we can allow women in topless bars and pornographic magazines″ and prevent them from sunbathing or removing their shirt on a hot day, testified Ramona Santorelli, who organized the protest.

The women, charged with ″exposure of a person,″ contend that the law allowing men to go shirtless, but not women, denies women them equal protection of the law guaranteed by the state and federal constitutions.

Santorelli, the first defense witness, said Anthony, who led the women’s suffrage movement at the turn of the century, also had to get arrested sometimes to prove her point.

The trial of the ″Topfree Seven″ was expected to continue until Wednesday in Rochester City Court.

Earlier Monday, seven police officers described the scene June 21 at the group’s topless picnic.

On cross-examination, Assistant Public Defender Lawrence Kasperek asked serveral of them whether they would arrest someone dressed like a model in Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue.

The officers said that they did not think the woman on the magazine cover, wearing a swimsuit with a neckline that plunged to her navel revealing the sides of her breasts, would be violating the state law.

″The point is that the law is not clear,″ Kasperek said. ″The law is an example of a vague and arbitrary government regulation.″

During opening statements, Assistant District Attorney Thomas J. Brilbeck said he would prove the women intentionally took off their shirts in protest of the statute and broke the law.

Mary Lou Schloss, a defendant and spokeswoman for the group, said witnesses had flown in from around the country.

A breast surgeon from Rochester is expected to testify that women’s and men’s breasts are basically the same, except hormones make women’s grow larger, said David R. Moss, a lawyer representing five of the women.

The offense carries a maximum 15-day jail term and a $250 fine.

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