Homophobic New Orleans pastor Grant Storms, who achieved notoriety for organizing anti-gay crusades during some of the South’s largest LGBTQ events, has been convicted of obscenity after being caught masturbating in a public park.
Storms, who has received national media attention for leading his small fundamentalist congregation The Reformer Church on marches of admonishment in New Orleans’ French Quarter during the annual gay festival Southern Decadence and other gay events, was convicted of a single count of obscenity for… well, just read what the Times-Picayune reports:
“Lafreniere Park is a public place,” LaDart said in announcing the verdict. “Lafreniere Park is a place that was chosen by this defendant to engage in a history of masturbation.”
Storms declined to testify. His attorneys, Brett Emmanuel and Donald Cashio, did not overtly deny their client masturbated in the park but argued he never exposed his penis. The exposure was a necessary element of the obscenity charge.
In his confession, Storms told Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Kevin Balser he had taken a break from his grass cutting business to sip a beer in the park, where he said he became “horny.” He said he put his hands into his underwear, but he never exposed himself.
“Why do you go to the park and do this, as far as masturbating?” Balser asked Storms hours after the arrest.
“I don’t know,” Storms responded. “I guess a thrill.”
“So it’s a thrill-slash-fantasy for you?” Balser asked.
“Yes,” Storms said…
Apparently attempting to explain to police why he exposed himself, Storms confessed that as a grass cutter, he carried a “pee bottle” with him, and on the day of his arrest, he sipped a beer in his van and then had to urinate. He did it in the bottle, instead of walking to a park restroom. However, Detective Donald Zanotelli testified he searched Storms’ van and found no bottles with urine in them.
Following his arrest, Storms provided an impromptu press conference for local television reporters, accusing the Sheriff’s Office of suggesting he was a pedophile and calling detectives “maniacal” and “coercive.” But he admitted to have watched pornography that day and to putting his hands in his pants. “I apologize deeply for my inappropriate, sinful actions,” he said tearfully, describing himself as “disoriented and confused.”
The press conference came back to haunt Storms, as Shute used a recording of it as evidence Wednesday. “It begs the question: What is he apologizing for?” Shute said.
Storms was sentenced to three years of probation, citing no evidence of a criminal history; he was also ordered to undergo psychiatric evaluation. So far, there has been no word from the Reformer Church as to what impact this has had upon their congregation.
However, members of New Orleans’ gay community have been thrilled to lose one of the most obnoxious homophobic voices to be found in the French Quarter: “He’s, in my opinion, just repulsive,” gay nightclub owner Earl Bernhardt told the Times-Picayune of Storms. “I’m not surprised at all that he got caught doing that. Serves him right. He’ll be out of our hair down here [in the French Quarter].”