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Man Sues Manhattan Beach For Wrongly Targeting Him During Bathroom Gay Sex Sting

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MANHATTAN BEACH (CBSLA.com) — A 22-year-old South Bay man says the city of Manhattan Beach wrongly accused him of seeking out gay sex during a public bathroom sting, arrested him without cause and publicly humiliated him by posting his arrest picture on the city’s website.

Charles Samuel Couch is now suing the city, the Manhattan Beach Police Chief and five detectives, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court.

Seventeen other men were arrested during the sting — but Couch says not only was he not in the beach restroom seeking sex, he was helping a boy with special needs.

Via Skype (Couch now attends college in Philadelphia) the plaintiff told KCAL9’s Serene Branson the arrest “was all very terrifying.”

Couch said on March 9, 2012, he was helping a 14-year-old boy — identified in the lawsuit as D.K. — with Prader-Willi Syndrome. It’s a rare, genetic disorder that leaves the person who has it with diminished functions of the sexual organs, arrested sexual development. constant hunger and mental challenges. Other symptoms include obesity and reduced muscle tone.

Couch said as he waited for D.K. to finish using the facilities, an undercover detective (now identified as John Nasori) entered the stall next to the one D.K. was using.

The child said he was being stared at through a hole in the stall and Couch said he decided to leave with the boy.

Couch’s San Francisco-based attorney, Bruce Nickerson, said “The child bursts from the stall, runs up to my client and says ‘There’s a man looking at me.'”

At this time, he maintains the undercover officer followed him and detained him along with four other detectives, all in plain clothes.

Couch said he was “knocked to the ground, I had my hands put behind my back. I had some men put their knees on the back of my knees so I couldn’t move my legs. They had me in a choke hold to subdue me.”

He was ultimately taken to jail and then questioned.

During interrogation, Couch was accused of gay cruising and child endangerment.

After police called D.K.’s parents and confirmed that the child had Prader-Willi Syndrome, Couch says, he was released without charges being filed.

“His parents did vouch for me,” says Couch, “they told police I was his caregiver and there was absolutely nothing wrong going on in this situation. And still, police continued to badger me. They wouldn’t take any other answers.”

Couch said he was violated months later — and “shocked and horrified” — to see his photo published on the Daily Breeze website, in a story about the sting operation.

“I’ve been working with special needs kids for several years and I’ve built very close relationships with the parents. So to have someone make these type of allegations it just does a huge blow to your character,” Couch said.

To add insult to injury, Couch said Manhattan Beach police also sent him notice of an outstanding warrant for resisting, obstructing or delaying a police officer.

Couch’s attorney believes the undercover sting operation is unlawful.

“The message is this,” said Nickerson, “if you want to conduct an undercover sting operation, make it comply with the law.”

Couch says the entire ordeal even delayed his college application process  — he said his name and mugshot lived on on the internet.

Branson reported Manhattan Beach officials didn’t return a call to comment on the lawsuit.

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