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Naked airport protester John Brennan's acquittal is being heralded as a victory for free speech. But the reason for his legal victory may only work in Oregon.
Brennan, 50, of Portland, Ore., famously stripped in front of TSA screeners at the Portland International Airport in April. After standing stark naked for about five minutes, police tackled him to the ground and hauled him to jail, The Oregonian reports.
Brennan was charged under a local law that prohibits indecent exposure, a misdemeanor. But the judge found Brennan's striptease could be excused.
John Brennan's acquittal was based on a 1985 state appeals court ruling that held anti-nudity laws don't apply to protests, according to The Oregonian. Because it's a state case about state and local laws in Oregon, its precedent only affects other cases within the state.
Brennan testified he only stripped naked to help speed up the screening process, after a TSA agent patted him down and detected the possible presence of explosives.
Brennan insisted he told agents his stripping was a free-speech protest. "I know my rights," Brennan said, according to The Oregonian. TSA agents are "getting as close to seeing us naked as they can. And we are upping the ante."
But the prosecutor said Brennan's free-speech claim only came after police took him down. An acquittal would encourage copycats, as "any other person who is ever naked will be able to state after the fact" it was a protest, the prosecutor said, according to The Oregonian.
After a two-hour trial, the judge agreed with John Brennan, acquitting him of the charge that could have led to a fine. "It is the speech itself that the state is seeking to punish, and that it cannot do," the judge said.