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WEDNESDAY, JULY 26, 2006
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EDITORIAL

Hike fines for bad conduct at Wheeler Wildlife Refuge

About a year ago, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District Alice Martin said in a news release that the public deserves better than to run into people involved in lewd and indecent behavior on the Wheeler Wildlife Refuge.

There she was again Monday, saying virtually the same thing. "Hundreds of citizens visit the Wheeler Wildlife Refuge and they, nor their families, should be exposed to indecent and obscene conduct," she said.

On those occasions, state and federal agents had rounded up men and one woman and charged them with public indecency at the fishing pier off of Alabama 67 in Morgan County; and at Beaverdam Boardwalk off Interstate 565 and at Arrowhead Landing, both in Limestone County.

Twenty-seven people received citations over the span of several days recently, Ms. Martin said Monday, including a Hartselle minister, who indicated he was at the wrong place at the wrong time, and a prominent Huntsville attorney.

Society is far less judgmental of certain sexual activities today, but people who gather in a public place for lewd and indecent purposes offend everyone.

The men pleading guilty in last year's sting received sentences ranging from only 10 days to 60 days in jail, probation and fines of $525. Two of the men were repeat offenders.

A public indecency conviction is a Class A misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of a year in jail and a $100,000 fine.

Being lenient with the people caught in last year's roundup obviously didn't stop the indecent activity on the refuge. Perhaps Ms. Martin will remember that when her office starts any plea bargaining with the 27 charged recently. Perhaps a $50,000 fine would better get their attention.

The refuge is a splendid setting for family activities such as hiking, bike riding, bird watching, swimming and fishing. But lewd activity keeps many families away.

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