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Topless tanner says she's legal



Published: Sun, August 26, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



A Struthers woman says the weather, not the law, is the main thing keeping her from sunbathing topless.

By PAUL WHEATLEY

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

STRUTHERS -- There's a woman here who occasionally sunbathes topless in her backyard pool or on her deck.

The Ohio attorney general's office says women can take their shirts off in public, but at least one local ordinance says women need to keep them on.

Struthers city officials say they've warned the woman that she could be arrested if she continues baring her breasts in view of neighbors.

Lisa, who didn't want her last name to be used, said she has sunbathed bare-chested all summer. She usually lies on her deck, which she drapes with towels for privacy.

However, seclusion is difficult in her open back yard. It's nestled at the bottom of a hill, giving neighbors to the south a bird's-eye view of whatever Lisa does.

Warning: Police didn't show up until the first time she tried sunbathing topless in her pool Aug. 14. Police said they warned the 27-year-old to build a privacy fence if she wanted to continue going topless; otherwise, they'd arrest her.

Lisa and her husband, Ed, don't plan on building a fence.

Instead they've brushed up on their state and local laws pertaining to nudity, which are subject to plenty of debate.

Ohio Revised Code says no person may expose private parts where they are likely to be viewed by others; however, the state defines private parts as genitals -- not breasts.

So, according to the Ohio attorney general's office, women are probably safe from the law if they remove their shirts on a hot summer day on the state Capitol porch.

However, Struthers law is more vague pertaining to this so-called sex offense. It simply states that no person shall appear in a state of nudity in a public place. Here, nudity's definition includes breasts.

Either way, Lisa and her husband definitely deny their back yard is public.

"If it's such a public place, why don't they pay my taxes?" asked Lisa.

Police Chief Robert Norris admits the city law is vague but said Lisa was being seen by neighbors who are considered the general public.

Interpretation: Bret Crow, spokesman for the Ohio attorney general, said the Struthers law is open to interpretation. And while Lisa may not be in the wrong, she'd have to spend time in court proving her case.

"I don't do it to p--- anybody off," she said. "I do it because I enjoy doing it. It doesn't bother my household."

Ed concurs: "She's not a kid. She's my wife. She's old enough to make decisions."

And even if the scenario were switched, Ed says he'd stand by his ideals. For instance, he'd tell his children to look away if a neighbor regularly sunbathed topless.

He also offers the same advice to current neighbors offended by his wife's actions.

"I'm not ashamed of my body," Lisa said. "I think some people are."

Will she bathe topless anymore?

Lisa said it hasn't been warm enough lately to venture out nude from the waist up. Plus, the family plans on moving soon, so it may not become an issue.

Would continue: But if a move wasn't on the agenda and the summer heat did return, Lisa said she'd probably continue tanning topless on the deck.

"The only reason people complain is they have nothing better to do," she said.

If she persists, Norris said, Lisa could be arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and public indecency. Both are misdemeanors.

"We thought this was a free country," she said. "That you're innocent until proven guilty."

wheatley@vindy.com




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