Sunday 18 February 2018

Honolulu agrees £55k payout to lesbians jailed for kissing

Courtney Wilson, left, and Taylor Guerrero said they were arrested for kissing in a grocery store (AP)
Courtney Wilson, left, and Taylor Guerrero said they were arrested for kissing in a grocery store (AP)

Honolulu has agreed to pay 80,000 dollars (£55,000) to a gay couple who said a police officer wrongfully arrested them after seeing the pair kissing in a grocery store.

Details of the settlement, which is still subject to city council approval, were announced in federal court in Hawaii's capital.

The council is expected to consider the settlement on July 6. "The Department of the Corporation Counsel believes that the tentative settlement is in the best interests of the city," corporation counsel Donna Leong said.

Courtney Wilson and Taylor Guerrero were visiting Hawaii from Los Angeles last year when, according to their lawsuit, they were harassed and arrested because the officer disliked like their public displays of affection in a Foodland store on Oahu's North Shore.

The women were walking through the aisles holding hands and at one point hugged and kissed, the lawsuit said.

Officer Bobby Harrison, who was shopping in uniform, "observed their consensual romantic contact and, in a loud voice, ordered plaintiffs to stop and 'take it somewhere else'."

The women complied and continued shopping, the lawsuit said, but when Harrison again saw them being affectionate with each other, he threatened to have them thrown out of the store.

While the women were in the checkout queue, Officer Harrison grabbed Ms Wilson by the wrist, and she started to call 911, they pair claimed. All three got into a scuffle and Officer Harrison arrested them.

They were charged with felony assault on an officer and spent three days in jail, but the charges were eventually dismissed.

After the lawsuit was filed, Honolulu Police Department opened an internal investigation. "The internal investigation was completed, and the allegations were not sustained," department spokeswoman Michelle Yu said. Officer Harrison retired at the end of last year.

The settlement dismissed Officer Harrison from the lawsuit and was not an admission of any wrongdoing, Ms Winter said.

Ms Wilson said she and Ms Guerrero were now no longer a couple but remained friends. She returned to Los Angeles while Ms Guerrero decided to stay in Honolulu.

"I'm glad it's over, but at the same time we wanted the officer to suffer some sort of repercussion," Ms Wilson said.

Ms Guerrero ended up working and living in Honolulu partly because a condition of their release from jail required them to say on the island. By the time the charges were dismissed, she found she liked living there.

"I'm happy with it," Ms Guerrero said of the settlement. "I'm just glad it's over with."

After paying their lawyers, the women plan to share what is left from the settlement amount.

Press Association

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