Wiener charges blogger with taking potty photo

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I don’t even know what to do with this except report it and tell you some background. Because it’s just strange, all around.

Short story: Sup. Scott Wiener’s pressing criminal charges against a blogger who tried to take a photo of him peeing in the City Hall men’s room.

Michael Petrelis, the mad-man blogger who once called me for several days straight in the middle of the night to scream “your wife has syphillis!” into the phone, was at City Hall Oct. 26 with gay Honduran activist Erick Martinez. At some point, he decided to go into the public restroom on the second floor -- and noticed that Sup. Scott Wiener was in there, using the urinal.

Petrelis has been fighting with Wiener over a lot of issues, including the nudity ban and Wiener’s efforts to remove benches from the plaza at 18th and Castro, and on the issues, he’s been right. He has a history of demanding accountability from the LGBT power structure, sometimes in ways that are not exactly polite -- but he’s still a valuable gadfly, and I’ve gotten over the insanity of the late-night calls (more on that below).

But in this case, Wiener was just trying to take a piss -- and Petrelis lifted his phone and tried to take a picture. Wiener’s wiener, I guess. Supervisor taking a leak. I don’t know exactly what he was going after, but the phone didn’t work right and he couldn’t get the photo until Wiener had buttoned up his pants and moved over to the sink, where he was going to brush his teeth.

Instead, he saw Petrelis and picked up the brush and toothpaste and left -- but not before the intrepid blogger snapped a pic, which wound up on the Petrelis Files blog. It’s not a terribly attractive or terribly scandalous photo; guy with a toothbrush. Whatever.
But Wiener was, well, pissed -- and I don’t blame him. We were always taught that you can take journalistic photos without the subject’s permission in a place where people have no expectation of privacy; if there’s any place in the world where a reasonable person would expect privacy, the bathroom would seem to quality.

Wiener called the cops -- or in this case, the Sheriff’s Office, since that’s who patrols City Hall.

Wiener’s been complaining (for no reason, really) about the way the deputy sheriffs have responded to the protests over his nudity ban (come on -- the nudists really aren’t a threat to anyone). But he asked for an investigation, filed a statement, and got the department to take it seriously enough to bring the matter to the district attorney for possible prosecution.

And the DA has filed charges.

Petrelis surrendered and was booked Nov. 29 on suspicion of violating Penal Code Section 647 (j) 1, which is typically used to prosecute peeping Toms: “Any person who looks through a hole or opening, into, or otherwise views, by means of any instrumentality, including, but not limited to, a periscope, telescope, binoculars, camera, motion picture camera, camcorder, or mobile phone, the interior of a bedroom, bathroom, changing room, fitting room, dressing room, or tanning booth, or the interior of any other area in which the occupant has a reasonable expectation of privacy, with the intent to invade the privacy of a person or persons inside.”

Bail was initially set at $25,000, which is astonishingly high for this level of crime, but Petrelis and his lawyer, Derek St. Pierre, got it reduced and Petrelis was cited and released on his own recognizance.

Wiener’s not talking; his office sent over a statement detailing the facts of the case and stating that Petrelis ... has political disagreements with me, has a history of inappropriate and harassing behavior.” Both of those facts are undeniably true.

St. Pierre, though, thinks this is a huge waste of criminal justice resources. “I’m surprised that the D.A.’s Office decided to charge this case,” he told me. “I don’t see this as illegal conduct.”

In fact, he said, “the most concerning part of the case is that Wiener references that face that they have political disagreements. That suggests to me that political differences are driving the supervisor’s concerns.”

Maybe -- or maybe he thinks his privacy really was invaded, and that Petrelis needs to be held accountable, too. As I said, I can’t blame him; Petrelis was acting like a total asshole. You can fight with Wiener, as I often do, and you can make speeches and denounce and interrupt meetings at City Hall and do all manner of impolite protests, but Jesus -- the guy deserves the right to take a pee in peace.

That said, I have to wonder: Is this really worth turning into a criminal case? Did Wiener really have to take it that far? Petrelis, who loves attention, isn’t going to back down. “We will be fighting this case,” St. Pierre told me, starting with an arraignment hearing Dec. 5, at which I can pretty much guarantee the plea will be “not guilty.”

So we might have a full-blown trial here, and (as a fan of restorative justice) I’m not so sure that the criminal courts are the best way to resolve this. You’d think they could go to Community Boards. Wiener could agree to personally lower the rainbow flag to half-staff every now and then and Petrelis could agree to clean pigeon shit off some newsracks. Or something.

Because I don’t imagine that even Wiener wants to take the stand in a public trial and face cross-examination by Petrelis. The only winners at that spectacle would be the reporters.

PS: I don’t even remember exactly why Petrelis started the late-night calls to my home phone; it was around the same time he was calling lots of other people. I think he was mad that the Guardian ran (or didn’t run) some kind of ad around the doctor who was in charge of STD control at the Department of Public Health. I think there was some report about syphillis among gay men in SF that Petrelis didn’t like. I just remember that my son was two years old and sick and we were having a hell of time getting him to sleep and just when he would finally nod off the phone would ring and Petrelis would yell at me about syphillis. I’d hang up and he’d call back ten seconds later and yell again. I finally paid the phone company $2 a month to block his calls.

I was not among those who sought a restraining order or went to the police; that’s not my style. I was furious, but I knew it would pass, and eventually it did.

So will this, Scott.

Comments

Firing a bullet at someone is a crime even if the intent to kill was not perfected and even if the bullet misses its target. The crime of firing the bullet was perfected. Taking a photo of someone, not a crime.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 03, 2012 @ 10:28 am

with more moronic comments.
you continue to cover yourself in glory with all of your wisdom

attempting to take a photo of someone's cock in a public restroom (without their consent) is a crime. Just because the camera didn't work doesn't get this perv off the hook.

I don't know what kind of business you get into in men's rooms, but if somebody tried to do that to me, there'd be a serious issue. And just because the victim here is a public figure doesn't change the equation one bit.

Posted by guest on Dec. 03, 2012 @ 10:52 am

The type of activities Marcos gets into in mens bathrooms, or anywhere outdoors really, are well documented.
They mostly involve him on his knees, but the other people involved dont often press charges.

Posted by Dedicated_local on Dec. 03, 2012 @ 11:54 am

Scott likes to attack the press by concealing the operations of his office and is translating that Nixonian fear of the truth into the repression of those on an 'enemies list.'

This is the opposite of how a public figure with nothing to hide conducts himself, this is the behavior of someone secretive and surreptitious.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 03, 2012 @ 12:08 pm

Marcos, you are really really bad at detecting when you're on the losing side of a debate.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 03, 2012 @ 1:06 pm

Jesus christ, just *stop*, lol...

You had a shitty take and got pretty owned on it. Happens to everyone now and then. The difference is most normal people know when it's a good time let the losing argument go.

"Nixonian fear"? Because he doesn't want a local nutball taking photos of his penis while he's trying to piss so the said nutball can post them on his blog?

What the fuck, lol...

Posted by Scram on Dec. 03, 2012 @ 1:38 pm

Was Wiener's cock in frame when he was brushing his teeth at the sink?

Posted by marcos on Dec. 03, 2012 @ 1:50 pm

What kind of sad, sick fuck tries to take a photo of someone, anyone, in a freaking bathroom?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 03, 2012 @ 2:06 pm

All kinds of sad, sick fuck stuff is legal and that is the only question here.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 03, 2012 @ 2:36 pm

important question here.

Stop, take a breathe, and think man.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 03, 2012 @ 3:07 pm

...is there a good, sane reason for Petrelis to do what he did?

Posted by Hortencia on Dec. 03, 2012 @ 3:58 pm

They are both hopelessly irrelevant, know it, and act out accordingly.

It is inconceivable that either have the self-awareness to understand when they have lost.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 03, 2012 @ 4:14 pm

Irrelevant with absolutely zero self-awareness. Thus they can't even self-correct their anti-social behavior assuming they even wanted to stay relevant in other people's lives.

But alas it may also be true that those of us who post here more than once or twice a week are mostly irrelevant too since odds are we're merely reacting to these same irrelevant posters. The math equations lead to the same result:

Irrelevant + Irrelevant = Irrelevant
Irrelevant * Irrelevant = Irrelevant

Posted by Guest on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 4:48 pm

"Public figures" have a right to use the restroom without fear of having their pictures snapped by Peeping Toms whether they're at the urinal, sitting on the toilet or washing their hands - as does any citizen.

Why must progressives make everything so complicated? The only person whose rights were violated here was Scott.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Dec. 02, 2012 @ 10:06 pm

As I understand it, there would be no expectation of privacy while brushing one's teeth in a public restroom. The photo is of him brushing his teeth not of him at a urinal.

This would be very entertaining to watch if it goes to court.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 02, 2012 @ 7:40 pm

Good riddance to bad rubbish. I am sure Petrelis was just intending to check if scotts flag was flying half staff.

In other news, progressives fall all over themselves to defend more behavior which is indefensible.
Marcos gloms on to the idea that because Petrelis' camera phone was too slow to snap the pic until wiener got to the sink, then there was no invasion of privacy.
Redmond disagrees with Petrelis, but really wonders if Wiener cant just let this slide - apparently its perfectly fine to terrorize people at home in the middle of the night - waking up their sick son.

You guys just never learn.... This is why progressives are dead in SF: not intelligent, profoundly parochial and completely unable or unwilling to learn from past mistakes.
keep on keeping on guys!

Posted by Erick Brooks on Dec. 03, 2012 @ 7:37 am

Progressive error is dominated by the intentional whittling down the coalition at the highest levels, more so than the antics of the shin kickers. If shin kicking were sufficient to tank a political coalition, the Brown/Pak/Lee machine has plenty of shin kickers that would have taken it down long ago. Fredrick Hobson, anyone?

Posted by marcos on Dec. 03, 2012 @ 8:06 am

And you often act like a Bully. So why don't you check yourself.

I wouldn't call Michael "rubbish." That's a bit strong. I've agreed with him on some things and not on others. The new idea he dreamed up of "banning" pigeons from Harvey Milk Plaza is nonsense. We live in a City and the pigeons live here too. It's their home as well. And I know about the medical connection he's making with the pigeon's shit, but really, I think we have enough bans going here without banning pigeons by putting up wiring above the plaza. Ridiculous.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 3:52 pm

I'm not going to get into the specifics of taking this to the criminal system. I'm more pleased that a bunch of people, including TIm, are challenging Michael's tactics. One out of every 20 or so causes that he picks are right on and he does the right thing. But he's harassed a number of people; he's picked on women half his size; he's bullied, threatened, interrupted; he's gotten into bed (I use this as purely a metaphor), temporarily, with some of the most conservative right-wingers in the country to attack other members of the gay community; he's taken on the false legitimacy of organizations' names (for example, he used to pass himself off as Queer Nation after they pretty much folded). What's really astonishing is how often the press has gone to him for an opinion as if he's an expert and actually had anything to do with the organizations he claimed to represent; usually they've been made of of only himself and one or two temporary dupes of his. The press has fallen for it time and time again, opting for his well-crafted souindbites over checking him out to see what on earth he's done. It's easy to be a gadfly on the outside, and it's legitimate to hold people - on the left or right - accountable. But I've never seen him actually build anything, just destroy others. I'd love to see someone figure out how on earth he's made a living all these years, how he's suckered some of the advertisers into placing ads on his website, and who bankrolls his shenanigans.
Thanks, Tim, for a great piece.

Posted by WowFinallySomeoneisTakingonMichael on Dec. 03, 2012 @ 11:10 am

Meant to call the above, "About Time." Sorry!

Posted by WowFinallySomeoneisTakingonMichael on Dec. 03, 2012 @ 11:11 am

"Wiener could agree to personally lower the rainbow flag to half-staff every now and then..."

FYI: Control-obsessive MUMC (specifically one of the owner's of Cliff's) has already stated that the rainbow flag will never again be lowered to half-staff because of "safety" reasons. Also, NO OTHER FLAG WILL EVER BE FLOWN ON THE FLAG POLE meaning the Bear Flag and Transgender Flag will NOT fly on the flag pole in the future. And the previous times that the flag was lowered were a "mistake." The "safety" reasons have to do with **IF** the flag were to come unhooked and get into the MUNI wires. Question: Has the flag ever come unhooked before? Solution: Use TWO hooks, one as a backup. Don't you sell those hooks in Cliff's?

"What IF" seems to be the mentality of afraid-of-their-own-shadow MUMC. I guess these useless people stay awake all night thinking about such things as: "What IF" my steering wheel fails tomorrow or "What IF" I have a flat tire, or "What IF" I run out of gas or "What IF" someone else controls the flag pole or "What IF" I see a naked guy or "What IF" I see a homeless person or "What IF" we ever have that nasty thing called democracy around here or "What IF"....

Posted by Guest on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 3:39 pm

One would think that Michael petrelis would lay a little low after his recent escapes, but clearly SFs favorite flag raising obsessive compulsive is clearly not ready to throw In the towell

Posted by Greg on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 6:20 pm

further public statements on the matter so he's now posting under the ever-popular "Guest" moniker.

His new crusade is newspaper stands. And the posting of random guy's backs (which he has no doubt not received permission to use).

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 6:52 pm

Don't go about making baseless assumptions. A better response from both of you would have been: "Is that you Michael?"

I'm not aware that Michael has been on this site. Michael did not write the post you responded to, "Greg." I wrote that post, and I also wrote this post: "Posted by Guest on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 3:52 pm" (wherein I was somewhat critical of Michael about his new campaign on pigeons at Milk Plaza). I agree with him on the flag pole issue and I know the story about useless MUMC and their monopoly of the flag pole. Why didn't you address the issue, rather than "Attack the Messenger" (me)? It doesn't bother you that the Transgender flag and the Bear flags won't fly there again because of some unilateral decision made by a merchants' group with control "issues"?

But if you like to call me "Michael," go right ahead. After all, I just call "Greg" and Lucretia/Troll II what they are: ubiquitous trolls. Notorious for being trolls on here. Of course "Snapples" could be Michael also, disguised as a troll.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 8:32 pm

The only people I know who do are you and your alter ego Michael Petrelis.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 8:57 pm

Only the real Petrelis would think that ridiculous attempt at "I'm actually not Petrelis" would work.

you are obsessed with MUMC and the flag. Even in SF, where being a crank is akin to self actualization, theres only one person in the castro who obsessively cares about the flag - and that is Michael Petrelis.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2012 @ 11:27 am

Well, despite your willful-ignorance, many people are pissed about who controls the flag. That's why MUMC/Cliff's Variety Store received over 1000 signatures on a petition to have MUMC fly the Transgender Flag which they finally did agree to fly (but only after protests and threats of boycotts) for the first and last time in November.

To inform yourself google:

meeting of activists with mumc

Otherwise, remain willfully-ignorant.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2012 @ 4:14 pm

Anyone with a brain would take this as a wake-up call.

Wake up, dude.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2012 @ 4:28 pm

Petrelis crossed the line and needs to held accountable for his anti-social and illegal actions. San Franciscans, for the most part, are tolerant people. We tollerate most political views, except for real conservatism. (Contrary to the Guardian's views, there are no conservatives at San Francisco Silly Hall.) We tollerate all sorts of demonstrations: in the Supervisors Chambers, on the steps of City Hall, and in the streets, parks or just about anywhere else. We tollerate political actions and demonstrations that would not be tolerated in any other city. But, there has to be a line that can't be crossed. Trying to get a photo of Wiener's or anyone else's wiener crosses that line. Petrelis should do a month or two at County Jail and then do a months of community service. I suggest 6 months of cleaning the restrooms at City Hall.

Posted by Howard Epstein on Dec. 08, 2012 @ 2:08 pm

The question is whether the DA has nothing better to do than spend limit resources fighting Scott Wiener's battles.

If Michael Peterlis is the biggest problem some of you guys have, it must be quite some utopia to live in.

Perhaps read some newspapers that cover the rest of the world. Or worry yourself about what Wiener is doing to curtail your rights, not what Petrelis is doing to protect them.

Posted by Clinton Fein on Jan. 07, 2013 @ 2:28 am