Guilty Pleas in Caribbean Gay Cruise Arrests
ROSEAU, Dominica (AP) - Two Southern California men pleaded guilty on Thursday to indecent exposure in Dominica after they were arrested during a stop on a gay cruise of the Caribbean.
John Robert Hart, 41, and Dennis Jay Mayer, 43, of Palm Springs, apologized in court and said they regretted their actions. Police said they were seen having sex in plain sight of people on land, prompting officers to board the ship and arrest them on Wednesday.
The two initially were arrested on suspicion of the local equivalent of sodomy in the eastern Caribbean island, which prohibits sex between two men.
The men's attorney, Bernadette Lambert, said they were remorseful.
"They were struck by the beautiful mountains, the clean and clear fresh air and were having a few cocktails, and so threw caution to the wind," she told the court.
Chief Magistrate Evaline Baptiste ordered the men to pay a nearly $900 fine after calling them "rogues and vagabonds." They made no comment after the hearing and police drove the men to the airport after they were released.
The two were aboard the Celebrity Summit cruise ship that had departed Puerto Rico on Saturday with about 2,000 passengers. The ship departed for St. Barts late Wednesday, leaving the men behind.
The cruise was organized by Atlantis Events, a Southern California company that specializes in gay travel. President Rich Campbell said Thursday that the outcome of the case would have been the same had it involved a heterosexual couple instead of two gay men.
"It had nothing to do with their sexual orientation and everything to do with their public conduct," he said. "I have been in contact with the guests and they are in good spirits."
Dozens of islanders packed the courtroom in the capital of Roseau to attend the 30-minute hearing.
Dominica Tourism Minister Ian Douglas said that tourists should abide by local laws regardless of their religious or sexual orientation, and that cruise ship officials should make passengers aware of these laws.
"It cannot be the responsibility of Dominica to screen guests and tourists before they come into the country," he said. "It is expected that any time people come to a country, they will respect the laws of the country."
Gay Caribbean cruises have been popular for several years despite hostility to homosexuality on certain islands, especially in Jamaica, Barbados and the Cayman Islands.