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Picnic table sex case could end up in Norwalk

Norwalk Reflector Staff • Oct 29, 2015 at 12:12 PM

BELLEVUE - Charges against Art Price Jr., the Bellevue man caught on video having sex with a picnic table behind his home, were dismissed Monday in Bellevue Municipal Court.

But that doesn’t mean he’s in the clear.

Huron County Prosecutor Russell Leffler told the Sandusky Register his office is reviewing the case. He expects Price, 40, of 146 Brinker St., to be arraigned on new charges in a matter of weeks.

Price is accused of wandering out onto his back deck naked, laying a table on its side and having sex with the umbrella hole. A confidential source brought the activity to the attention of police, who told the source a photograph or video would be helpful. An officer sat outside and drove by the house several times trying to catch Price in the act, a police report said.

The source then turned over three DVD recordings showing Price having sex with the table on four occasions, police said.

Bellevue police charged Price with fifth-degree felonies because they said the activity took place in plain view of a school. His backyard is directly across from Ridge Elementary School and police said they have reason to believe Price performed his outdoor sexual activities when students could have witnessed them.

Depending on what Leffler’s investigation finds, Price may be brought up on lesser charges than he originally faced. But that’s not certain.

If “any person who was likely to view and be affronted by the offender’s conduct was a minor,” it makes the charges a fifth-degree felony, Ohio law states.

However, Leffler requested the dismissal because he said the four fifth-degree felony public indecency charges didn’t seem to match the law perfectly.

“I wasn’t satisfied that anything he had (done) was within the section. The law required, in the section he was charged in, that the prior offenses had to be within that section. Our review of the record at this point is that they don’t seem to be there,” Leffler told the Register.

Ohio law says the A-category public indecency incidents should be treated as misdemeanor crimes except for special circumstances, which Leffler said were not met.

But other felony charges may be around the corner.

“We are looking at some other possible felonies, as to whether or not this is a performance, so we are examining school records to find out if children were present on the playground. We’re researching it,” Leffler said. “The only felony section that appears to be possible is this business about obscene performance for juveniles.”

n Other sex-related incidents

Police say this was not the first time Price, a Register employee, was in trouble for his sexual activities.

Bellevue Police Capt. Matt Johnson said Price has at least three previous arrests on charges of voyeurism in Tiffin and Bowling Green. The officer said the Bowling Green incidents occurred in 1987 and 1988 and the Tiffin one was in 1989.

“The reports aren’t the greatest because they were handwritten ... but from what little we’ve received it appears the ones in Bowling Green were (for) masturbating outside while looking into the windows of people’s houses,” Johnson told the Register.

At 8:30 a.m. Sept. 3, 1987, a 21-year-old woman complained a man wearing a bandana over his face was peeking into her apartment complex in Bowling Green. Price, who was 20 at the time, was arrested and charged with voyeurism, a Bowling Green Police Department report states.

Then on Oct. 23, 1987, a 23-year-old Bowling Green woman reported a man had been stimulating himself in front of her window, a police report said. Police eventually arrested Price, who pleaded guilty to both charges, which aren’t listed in the police report obtained by the Register.

He was sentenced to 20 days in jail and was on probation until 1997.

But on Dec. 11 that same year, Price was identified again as the offender after another female called police complaining that a man wearing a bright blue bandana was standing between two houses stimulating himself, a police report said.

There is a police report for one other incident that occurred Feb. 3, 1988, involving Price and another female, but the report obtained by the Register did not contain a narrative.

In addition to those incidents, a six-page police report in Tiffin also portrays Price as a voyeur.

On July 4, 1989, a woman complained to police her 14-year-old daughter was about to take a shower when she found dirt at the bottom of the tub, a Tiffin police report said. Her mother checked the tub and found what appeared be shavings in the tub, and then found a hole had been drilled through the bathroom wall from the utility room. The hole gave a clear view into the shower stall from the utility room.

Price, who was 21 at the time, was spotted by police bending over and stimulating himself while peeking through the hole, the report states.

The defendant pleaded guilty to two charges of voyeurism and one count of criminal damaging. Price was sentenced to a total of four days in jail. He was required to make restitution for damages and attend counseling.

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