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Earmuffs, Bikini Used In Argument By Woman Who Bared Breasts

September 19, 1986

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) _ One of seven women on trial for going topless in public said ears turn her on and compared earmuffs to a bikini top to argue that a state law prohibiting women from baring their breasts is sexist.

Nikki Craft of Oshkosh, Wis., held up the bikini top in her closing argument Thursday in Rochester City Court. ″I see shirts, and particularly this obnoxious little object, to be symbolic of the bondage of women.″

After Craft and her co-defendants took off their shirts in a city park on June 21, they were each charged with ″exposure of a person,″ a violation that is punishable by up to 15 days in jail and a $250 fine.

The defendants contended during their four-day trial that the state law, which does not prohibit men from exposing their chests, is unconstitutional .

Craft, a women’s rights activist, donned a pair of earmuffs during her presentation in an analogy between one pair of protrusions and another.

″I’m very turned on by ears myself,″ she said.

Judge Herman Walz gave attorneys until Nov. 3 to file additional legal briefs and arguments, leaving the defendants to wait for his decision, and for a change in American culture.

″It’s too cold to do anything else anyway,″ said defendant Lynn Zicari of Rochester.

If the judge agrees that the law is unconstitutional, his ruling would not be binding on other judges. The women say they will appeal if they are convicted.

The prosecution’s case consisted of one day of testimony by police officers about the arrests. The judge allowed the defense to turn the rest of the trial into a forum on such issues as sex in advertising, the dangers of violent pornography and where to sunbathe in the nude.

Defense witnesses included a psychologist using a Barbie doll as a prop and an anthropologist who studies breasts and breast-feeding. The defense argued that men refuse to give a woman control of the way her body should look.

″Unfortunately ... we’ll probably have to take our shirts off again in order to get front-page news,″ said protest organizer Ramona Santorelli of Rochester. ″But really what was important was what was said in there.″

Mary Lou Schloss, another defendant, said the trial was worth getting arrested.

″We feel that we were right. I don’t see how anyone could find us guilty as charged,″ said Schloss, who testified that she took part in the protest, even though she found it ″unpleasant and uncomfortable,″ because she did not want her children to have to live under the decency law.

The other defendants are Deborah Seymour of Astoria, Ore., and Kathleen Reilly and Elise Tooley, both of Rochester.

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