Artist sheds his plan to fight Mpls. nudity statute

  • Article by: ABBY SIMONS
  • Star Tribune
  • May 30, 2012 - 7:50 PM

A Twin Cities performance artist who planned to take a ticket for skinny-dipping to trial -- using personal expression as a defense -- pleaded guilty Wednesday.

On the day his trial was to begin, Patrick Scully, 58, admitted to a single count of violating the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board's statute requiring proper attire, a misdemeanor. He received a suspended sentence of 60 days in the Hennepin County workhouse and $378 in fines and surcharges. In exchange for his plea, additional charges of misdemeanor indecent exposure and offensive conduct filed Tuesday were dropped.

Before District Judge Daniel Moreno handed down the sentence, Scully said he would have been amenable to a plea bargain had he known about the additional charges earlier. He said afterward that the last-minute counts "felt vindictive."

Assistant City Attorney Deborah Styles did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Scully, a 6-foot-7 dancer and founder of Patrick's Cabaret, frequently performs nude on stage. He was ticketed while swimming nude at 3 p.m. last July 10 at Twin Lakes, in Golden Valley just along the Minneapolis border.

Scully pleaded not guilty and vowed to take his case to trial, with witnesses from the local arts community and evidence including photos of nude statues smattered throughout the city to support his point that nudity is not a crime. The Minneapolis Park Board's ordinance makes exception for artistic performances -- Scully claims his nude swim was part of a larger vision to live in a world where society is no longer ashamed of the human body.

Scully and his attorney, Graham Ojala-Barbour, decided to accept the plea deal when it was apparent the two new charges would be more difficult to fight than the Park Board ordinance. There was also a risk, Ojala-Barbour said, of being placed on the Minnesota Sex Offender Registry if there were subsequent convictions.

"With the indecent exposure count, we were risking him being found guilty just based on his nudity alone," Graham-Ojala said. "It was just much more questionable."

Scully said he will continue with his art and will likely create another performance piece based on his court battle. Referencing an early prosecution motion for a gag order to prevent Scully from discussing the case in the media, he said, "I think I'll call it 'Naked and Gagged.'"

Abby Simons • 612-673-4921

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