Court Reverses Order To Hold Activist For A Month Until Trial For Exposure Of A Breast

There is a disturbing case in Richmond, Virginia where Michelle Renay Sutherland, 45, was to be held without bond after recreating the scene from the Virginia flag in a demonstration in support of the Equal Rights Amendment. As shown on the flag, Sutherland exposed one breast and was arrested for a misdemeanor of indecent exposure. The arrest itself raises concerns but the greater concern is the fact that Sutherland was to be held for more than a month without a bond on a misdemeanor charge. Richmond Judge Lawrence B. Cann III initially ordered Sutherland to remain in jail without bond but later apologized and granted a bond after public outcry.

I am a resident of Virginia and a huge fan of its flag (I also have a great affection for the Louisiana State Flag).

The flag shows Virtus after defeating Tyranny with her spear pointed down and her parazonium sheathed. Her left breast is exposed — the only nude element on any U.S. flag. A royal crown lies beside the fallen tyrant and the motto reads  Sic semper tyrannis, or Thus always to tyrants. It is a reference to the words that were attributed to Brutus in slaying Julius Caesar.

Sutherland and another activist recreated that exact scene — right down to the exposed left breast. According to the Richmond-Times Dispatch reported,  she was then arrested. Sutherland is a Brooklyn artist who goes by the name Sister Leona. On a video, Sutherland can be heard saying “I’m not sex. I’m actually dressed up as the woman who’s on, like, literally the flag.”

What happens next is baffling. She has remained in jail until his trial March 21 without bond on a minor, nonviolent offense. It is an absurd and deeply troubling situation. Putting aside the constitutionality of such obscenity arrests, the holding of someone for such a minor offense without a bond is inherently abusive in my view.

To his credit, Richmond Judge Lawrence B. Cann III apologized for his decision to deny bond but insisted that he did not have context behind Sutherland’s arrest. That leaves a concern about the original rejection of a bond without understanding the underlying crime. Most defendants do not have the benefit of outcry and publicity.

Cann is a district court judge for the 13th Judicial District in Virginia. He received his undergraduate degree from Princeton University and his J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law. He came to the bench with considerable experience as a trial lawyer in Richmond for 36 years with a concentration on business and construction litigation. He is considered an expert on construction law, mold litigation and mechanic’s lien issues.

29 thoughts on “Court Reverses Order To Hold Activist For A Month Until Trial For Exposure Of A Breast”

  1. What happens when you allow a concept of obscenity to infiltrate First Amendment doctrine. “I know it when I see it.” Well, yeah, if you’re a prig and the vector of repressed sexual attitudes that have been passed down over the centuries thanks to twisted religious doctrine vilifying the body, women’s bodies in particular, because it made the male religious masters of the old universe uncomfortable (and look: after all that, the Church has proved to be a wheelhouse of child molestation). Supposedly liberal societies, the U.S. especially, have been historically so deeply afflicted with this pernicious sense of sex and sexuality, and the desire they instill, as taboos that we are still suffering from it, notwithstanding the ubiquitous sex in our faces in every media venue, which is just the flip side of this nonsense. Judges in general stand culturally only one remove from priests.

    1. Yeah we all love a licentious, sexually obsessed society. Look at all the good that flows from it. Positively Caligulesque!

      1. in our preposterous situation, people are encouraged to promiscuously copulate for free, in every variation, and that is considered a civil right.

        but if adults freely agree to exchange money for sex, it is a heinous crime.

        unless of course, the act is filmed for eventual public display, in which case it is protected by the First Amendment

        I think a sane society would legalize voluntary adult sex work and perhaps license it, and at the same time discourage pornography, rather than grant it special privileges

        Our system penalizes poor women while it rewards the movie industry. How much sense does that make?

        every perversion in America between adults is legal including unimaginably disgusting things, JUST SO LONG AS IT’S ON CAMERA! But a handjob for a tip is a crime.

        America is insane

  2. “the holding of someone for such a minor offense without a bond is inherently abusive in my view.”

    Agreed. Considering the size of her boob, it was as unimpressive as the seal of the flag. Had her boob been the size of Dolly Parton’s, that would have been welcomed but alas it would have triggered Lt Gov Justin Fairfax and perhaps the other woman would have had the opportunity to spear the creep. Missed opportunity! No doubt Gov Northam would have donned a white sheet and black face to show his virile abilities

    Virginia is showing America the Civil War still runs deep in Old Dominion and that should give the GOP the Commonwealth on a silver platter boobs and all

  3. Ironic that Professor Turley posted this item right before his post about the woman in Louisiana who was arrested and criminally charged for sharing the video showing some kid getting beat up in school. I did a quick scan of the Virginia statutes and didn’t see anything analogous to the Louisiana statute.

    Good thing the Virginia lady didn’t film and post this crime in Louisiana or she would clearly be subject to prosecution under the plain language of the statute. But wait – she is one of the woke. Prosecuting her wouldn’t even occur to us. My goodness, that would be a clear violation of the First Amendment. And if some knuckledragger even tried to silence her, the ACLU would be there with bells on.

    1. “Equal Means Equal”

      There is no way to make everyone equal. The best we can do is make them equal under the law. Is it equal that only women can bear children? It is equal that men work more hours than women? Is it equal that men die earlier than women. Is it equal that women get cervical cancer and men don’t?

      Keep playing identity politics and we can all become slaves.

      1. The primary distinction between the Founding Father’s American Government model and Communism is that the American model promotes “equal opportunity” NOT equal “outcomes” (same size house, same car, same salary, etc). Equal Opportunity includes a quality public education and equal treatment under law so each individual can compete for unequal outcomes depending on hard work and talent.

        1. Yes, and the government need not be the main entity extending opportunities to self-develop. The private sector of social entrepreneurs running non-profits, funded by private philanthropy is competing very effectively against government programs (in results, not spending inputs). In the future, I see the centrist moderates coming together to take a few modest steps to intensify the private human development (HumDev) sector. One would be to evolve a HumDev business entity as a specialized 501(c) which can amass equity value, and be sold and traded (even while remaining a non-profit). I could see tax and estate law being tweaked to advantage gifting to HumDevs.

          Conservatives should be countering the neo-socialists with our own plan for how to increase social mobility. If we don’t, and just try to dismiss their approach, we can and will be accused of indifference to low social mobility, and could lose influence. Human development, and enlarging a thriving, entrepreneurial private economy that facilitates it, should be our counter to socialists. On our side will be a strong argument for preserving individual freedom….on theirs will be the scourge of bureaucratic ineptitude and surrendering of individual freedom to central planners.

        2. No, Ash, you are wrong. The founding documents promotes a federalist system that limits the federal government’s power leaving the rest of the power to the states and the individual. It strives for equality under the law but basically is attempting to permit INDIVIDUALS our natural rights.

          Nowhere in the Constitution does it mention how our children should be educated.

          I am sure you realize that every state has its own Constitution to provide for the people in that state. What you are saying is made up.

  4. The only way for Virginia to be legal, under federal law, is to enforce the law equally against men. Fun fact: it was illegal before the 1930’s for men to be topless on any public beach in the USA.

    1. given how most men have man boobs….keep your XXXXL shirt on your torso and prevent global chaos

    2. “The only way for Virginia to be legal, under federal law”

      How is the manner of dress something that is a federal concern on state held lands?

    3. “The only way for Virginia to be legal, under federal law, is to enforce the law equally against men. Fun fact: it was illegal before the 1930’s for men to be topless on any public beach in the USA.”

      Just to satisfy the curious amongst us, can you cite the relevant Federal statute or Supreme Court opinion that made topless men illegal at all US public beaches? I’m not denying veracity of your assertion, I’d just like to know the relevant legal history.

      But here’s another fun fact, this time from the world of science: men and women do not have the same private parts. Sorry about that, all you transgender dogmatists.

  5. “Sutherland was to be held for more than a month without a bond on a misdemeanor charge.”

    Crazy justice. I prefer the blackface, rape and infanticide issues.

    I think the fine repentant judge may have screwed up. Maybe he has some mommy issues.

  6. So a woman has no right show her breast in public in Virginia, but their senator Tim Kaine is going to support a woman’s right to infanticide. Do I have this basically correct?

  7. My argument to the U.S. District Court of Eastern VA:
    Your honor in response to the Motion To Dismiss filed by the attorney for the judge who locked my client up for 30 days for showing a boob. Section 42 U.S.C. and other provisions give a plaintiff the right to sue a person, even a state court judge, as “a state actor” or violated the civil right, the First Amendment free expression rights and Ninth Amendment right of privacy, by joining with other state actors such as the police and prosecutors, to put my client in jail for expressing her free speech and acts of expression such as showing her boob in public. Showing a boob in public in this state is not a crime because the state seal of the state depicts the same thing. Immunity of prosecutors and state judges, both “state actors” is wrong. I ask the court to deny the Motion To Dismiss and move the case for trial. The judge who is the defendant is a member of the White Citizens Council and should not be a judge.

  8. Some men have a knee-jerk reaction – believing that they must control women’s bodies.

  9. Am I the only one who thinks the VA flag looks a lot like Kali standing over Shiva, God of Destruction?

    Looks like the CERN statue, minus the DNA dance.

    I don’t think it’s Ishtar, Isis, Inanna, etc. She is on top of the capitol building in D.C. Right between Mary-land and Virgin-ia.


    1. “Am I the only one who thinks the VA flag looks a lot like Kali standing over Shiva, God of Destruction?”

      I guessing that yes, you are the only one.

  10. Bye, bye Miz American pie. Drove my Chevy to the courthouse and the Nazi scene was arrai. Good ol boys drinking whiskey and rye, singing ….

  11. Judge Cann is one of the finest judges we have in the City of Richmond and I regularly appear before him. His court is extremely busy, yet I know him to be kind, compassionate, fair to a fault and deeply concerned about the community. He is active in the Inns of Court and other civic activities as well as possessing a keen legal mind that is never too egotistical to reconsider his opinions. His reversal of this decision is testament to these facts. He is to be applauded for his unwavering commitment to law and decency.

    1. Judge Cann should be sentenced to 60 days in that bad jail. No one should hold some person on any bail if they have been charged with showing a boob. Jeso. If they did so to depict the stage emblem it was an act of First Amendment and is protected. Free. The judge needs to be removed from the bench for good and those who praise him need to think about their southern attitudes.

      1. Lib:
        You just need to think — and stay well north. And we’ll keep our southern attitudes, thank you. It keeps us from devolving like some here.

        1. I live in North Carolina which is South of Virginia. If Virginia can show a boob on their state embliem or flag then the boob is not something to hide.

    2. JT: “The arrest itself raises concerns but the greater concern is the fact that Sutherland was to be held for more than a month without a bond on a misdemeanor charge.”

      Maybe Cann needs a vacation. Something isn’t right.

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