A Colorado woman has been awarded a $50,000 settlement after she was charged with indecent exposure for playing Frisbee topless, the first damage claim paid to a woman wrongfully charged for being topless in the U.S., according to her lawyer.
Effie Krokos, 20, was tossing a Frisbee on Sept. 26 with her fiance in his front yard in the city of Loveland, 40 miles north of Denver. She got warm and took off her shirt almost without thinking, she told the Reporter-Herald on Thursday.
Several hours later, Loveland police officer Greg Harris came to her door. A neighbor had called the police.
Krokos said that she tried to explain the incident to Harris, but that he was dismissive of her and issued her a summons for indecent exposure.
A Loveland city ordinance prohibits exposure in public places or places open to public view.
“I was really upset at the whole situation because I didn’t do anything wrong,” Krokos said. “I was just playing Frisbee in my own yard with my fiance.”
She said that when she brought up a recent circuit court ruling against the public nudity ordinance in the neighboring city of Fort Collins, the officer said going topless was allowed only in that city. “I knew that wasn’t right,” Krokos said.
Krokos, who wants to be a history teacher, realized that a conviction of indecent exposure, a class 1 misdemeanor, might have required her to register as a sex offender.
“If I have this on my record I can’t be a teacher,” she recalled thinking at the time. She was heartbroken at the possibility of letting down her family and losing her dream job.
After several other lawyers turned down the case, she sought out Denver civil rights attorney David Lane, who represented the plaintiffs in the Fort Collins “Free the Nipple” case.
In that case, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in February that Fort Collins’ public nudity ordinance, which had no restrictions on male toplessness but prohibited women from baring their breasts, was in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. Free the Nipple v. City of Fort Collins established that ordinances based on gender are unconstitutional.
“Anywhere it’s legal for a man to appear in public topless, it’s legal for a woman to do the same,” Lane said.
Lane wrote a letter to Loveland Oct. 24, proposing a settlement in Krokos’ case in order to prevent a federal lawsuit.
Loveland accepted the offer. Said spokesman Tom Hacker: “Although the officer issued the summons following proper protocols and in accordance with our local law, the city, upon the advice of its insurance carrier, the Colorado Intergovernmental Risk Sharing Agency, extended the settlement offer to the woman.”
The settlement went into effect Thursday, and the case was dismissed with prejudice, meaning that it cannot be reintroduced in another lawsuit.
After Krokos’ citation, the city of Loveland suspended enforcement of the provision due to the 10th Circuit decision. City administrators will recommend that the City Council review the ordinance for possible amendment, the statement said.
Krokos said that the settlement is a relief because it means that the ordeal is over. She said she will use the money for college tuition. Having moved to Loveland from her native New York in 2017, she is studying at Front Range Community College in Fort Collins.
She stressed that the money isn’t what’s important to her. She said she wants to show that it isn’t fair for women to be treated differently than men by law enforcement, and hopes that the case will make more women aware of their rights.
“I want people to know ‘if the cops get tough on me, I can get this thing thrown out,’” Krokos said.