On July 29th, 2009, citing "significant evidentiary issues," the Salt Lake City Prosecutor's Office announced it would not pursue the trespassing case against "gay kissers" Derek Jones and Matthew Aune, whose arrest on July 9th prompted local and national protests. Stories published by the Deseret News, KSL Channel 5, and KSTU Channel 13 (with video).
In declining to pursue the case, Salt Lake City prosecutor Sim Gill said there continues to be a mistaken belief by many visitors that there is a public right of way on the Main Street Plaza, a private, but open, walkway that was sold to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by Salt Lake City a decade ago.
"Under the facts of this case, there is a sufficient basis to believe a factual misunderstanding occurred," Gill wrote in a statement Wednesday July 29th. "There would be a basis to conclude the alleged trespassers did not have the sufficient notice to form the necessary mental intent to commit criminal trespass. The Main Street Plaza walkway was perceived to be open to the public. There is a reasonable basis to believe the alleged trespassers did not think the LDS staff who confronted them could legally eject them from the property." By virtue of this statement, Gill is implying that a case could be made that the demarcation between private and public property is not sufficiently clear.
In response, LDS Church spokeswoman Kim Farah said, "While we feel the city had the necessary elements available for prosecution in this matter, the decision on whether to move forward or not rests with the city prosecutor". The Church had issued a much more detailed statement on July 17th. Meanwhile, one of the gay kissers' attorneys, Tara Isaacson, said the two are glad they have been exonerated, and denied the kissers were engaging in a publicity stunt. The other attorney, Walter Bugden, said he expects the LDS Church to change the signage around the plaza to include more than just bans on skateboarding and smoking.
But just one day after the charges were dropped, the Salt Lake Tribune obtained a copy of the original surveillance video. While the video does not show Derek Jones and Matt Aune slobbering all over each other, it does show the confrontation with security. The security guards were verbally remonstrating with the two, attempting to get them to leave peacefully. But at the 0:30 minute point, you can see Derek Jones getting physically aggressive as he reaches out to push one of the guards. Afterwards, the guards immediately took restraining action; it appears the force was strictly commensurate with the needs of the situation, since the two kissers continued to physically resist. Note that the video is silent:
The bottom line - had Derek Jones and Matt Aune left when directed to do so, there would have been no physical confrontation or citation. But it is just as well the trespassing charges were dropped; no need to turn these exhibitionists into political martyrs, particularly when much of the gay community itself criticized them for their political opportunism.