Naked TSA Protester John Brennan Strips Victory from Prosecutors

By Andrew Chow, Esq. on July 24, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

An Oregon man who famously bared it all in a naked TSA protest has stripped victory from prosecutors who charged him with indecent exposure.

A judge acquitted John Brennan, 50, of Portland, Ore., after finding his striptease at an airport security checkpoint in April was free speech, The Oregonian reports.

"It is the speech itself that the state is seeking to punish, and that it cannot do," the judge said.

John Brennan's naked TSA protest took place after a security pat-down at Portland International Airport. The TSA agent's gloves somehow tested positive for nitrates, a possible sign of explosives picked up from Brennan's clothes, according to The Oregonian.

So to alleviate screeners' concerns and to expedite the process, Brennan decided to disrobe. He stripped slowly and calmly, as others in line took pictures and covered their children's eyes.

Brennan insisted he told airport 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 at Brennan's two-hour trial last week, prosecutors alleged Brennan didn't say his nudity was a protest until after police arrived about five minutes later.

A local law in Portland makes indecent exposure a misdemeanor, but prosecutors downgraded Brennan's charge to a violation, punishable only by a fine, The Oregonian reports. However, based on a prior state appeals court ruling from 1985, the judge held that anti-nudity laws don't apply to protests.

John Brennan's naked TSA protest acquittal may encourage copycats, the prosecutor warned the court. "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. Local civil rights lawyers in Oregon may want to take note.

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