Woman Testifies She Had No Choice When She Used Men’s Restroom
HOUSTON (AP) _ A woman who said she was desperate when she went to the men’s room at a country-western concert was found innocent Friday of illegally using the restroom.
Jurors deliberated for 23 minutes before acquitting Denise Wells of violating a city ordinance that prohibits people from using restrooms intended for members of the opposite sex in a manner calculated to cause a disturbance.
She faced a maximum $200 fine if convicted of the misdemeanor.
Ms. Wells, 33, and her lawyer and sister, Valorie Wells Davenport, laughed and hugged each other when the verdict was read.
″I’m relieved. I’m elated,″ Ms. Wells said. ″The jurors told me, ’You had us all the way.‴
Testimony in the trial, which began Thursday, ended earlier in the day.
Ms. Wells testified that she saw the line outside the women’s room at the July 7 concert by George Strait was so long, ″I felt I was in a situation where I had to be in a restroom. I took the only option I felt was available.″
The legal secretary said she covered her eyes and apologized to men already in the restroom at The Summit. A loud remark she made about leaving the toilet seat up was ″more of a nervous reaction than a cocky remark,″ she said.
Ms. Wells was arrested and removed from the concert, for which she paid $125 to attend.
″I was devastated. I felt I was being harassed for doing something I felt I had no choice but to do. I entered the men’s room to go to the bathroom and that’s all,″ she testified.
Earlier Friday, police officer Steven Andrews said he was not offended by Ms. Wells’ presence in the men’s room.
″It didn’t bother me one way or the other,″ said Andrews, a vice officer for nearly two decades who was involved in Ms. Wells’ arrest.
Ms. Davenport said the state failed to prove she had no permission to enter the men’s room and that she entered with the intent to ″raise a ruckus.″
Assistant City Attorney Karl Rosette said he didn’t think he needed the Summit management to testify whether Ms. Wells had permission.
Ms. Davenport asked Municipal Court Judge Francelia Totty to declare Ms. Wells innocent, but said she wanted her sister to rebut some of the testimony offered by police.
Two police officers have testified Ms. Wells left the stall in the men’s room and announced: ″There - I left the lid up just like y’all like it.″
The defense’s case focused on the lack of adequate facilities for women at such public places as the Summit.
The case has made Ms. Wells a celebrity of sorts. Her bathroom trip has been the subject of national news coverage and she has made appearances on the talk shows of Johnny Carson, Geraldo Rivera and Joan Rivers.
On Thursday, Officer Daniel B. Ramsey said he was working as a security guard at the Summit when he answered two men’s complaints that women were in the men’s room.
Ramsey testified he removed three women from the men’s room. When he returned, he saw Ms. Wells coming out of a stall.
But unlike Andrews, Ramsey, a vice officer for 18 years, said he was offended by the women’s presence in the men’s restroom.
Under cross-examination, Ramsey said 20 women were in a line stretching into the hallway waiting to enter the women’s room, while the line of people waiting to use the men’s room did not reach past the door.
Ms. Davenport said her sister waited until intermission was over and again tried to use the women’s room, but the line was even longer. Then, in desperation, she followed a couple into the men’s room, while the other woman’s date cleared the way.