Constitutional Law

Naked Biker Was Wearing a Helmet, But Agrees to Say Otherwise and Pay a $50 Fine

Bike-riding in the nude has been found to be a form of constitutionally protected speech in Portland, Ore. But across the river in Vancouver, Wash., the courts apparently take a more minimalist view of the First Amendment.

After a Clark County District Court jury deadlocked earlier this year on whether to find him guilty of indecent exposure, Matthew Vilhauer, 43, has agreed to a plea bargain to end the case. Although shoes and a helmet were among the few items he was wearing when he was arrested last summer for riding his bike in the nude, he has agreed to pay a $50 fine for biking without a helmet, which is a civil infraction, reports the Columbian.

If convicted of indecent exposure, he could have been sentenced to as much as 90 days and a $1,000 fine for the misdemeanor.

His court-appointed attorney, Luka Vitasovic, tells the newspaper that Vilhauer would have had a good chance of beating the rap on retrial, but decided to move on with his life.

“I don’t think Matt was looking to be the poster boy for nude expression,” the lawyer says.

Trying the case earlier this year, Assistant District Attorney Todd George drew a distinction between organized nude-biking events that routinely take place in Portland and what he described as a “pub crawl” by Vilhauer and others in which some, but not all, of the bikers doffed significant articles of clothing. “This is not Portland,” he told jurors, who had to decide whether the naked bike ride was obscene and whether viewers were offended, reports the Columbian in an earlier article.

Vilhauer wore a sweater and corduroy trousers to trial.

Related earlier coverage: “Oregon Biker Beats Rap for Naked Ride; ‘Symbolic Protest’ is Protected, Judge Says”

Updated on July 15 to correct typographical error.

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