PORTLAND, Ore. – A couple claim they lost their jobs after Clackamas County police arrested them for public indecency because they had a picnic in the woods, kissed once and hid in the bushes to avoid what they thought was a “homeless gang.”
Former college professor Kristie Gitnes and her boyfriend David Leatham, a former truck driver, say they were enjoying a secluded lunch along a trail, during which they “kissed and embraced briefly.”
Gitnes and Leatham say they were fully clothed.
As they walked back to their cars, an “emotionally disturbed homeless woman confronted [them] in a frightening manner,” according to the federal complaint.
A moment later, they “heard raised voices and hid in the bushes, believing they were in danger of being assaulted by members of a homeless gang.”
That’s when Clackamas County Deputy Sheriffs Mark Nikolai and Michael Zacher stepped up and ordered the couple to come out of the bushes or risk having police dogs set loose on them.
Gitnes and Leatham say they complied, and the deputies arrested them.
The deputies accused Leatham of sexually assaulting Gitnes and charged Gitnes with public indecency, the lawsuit states.
Gitnes claims the deputies dragged her up a viaduct, scraping her legs. And she says Deputy Nikolai falsified his report of the incident.
Gitnes also accuses corrections officers at the Clackamas County Jail of stealing $160 in cash from her wallet.
The couple say they were fired after Clackamas County issued news releases announcing their arrests. The county later dropped all charges against them.
They demand unspecified damages, including punitive damages, and are represented by Bear Wilner-Nugent.