The case might have been simple. An engaged couple gets into a domestic dispute in public. He grabs her breasts against her will and is charged with indecent assault.
But a case before District Judge Tom Jordan was more complicated than that.
Steven A. Billotte, 38, an inmate at Benner state prison, was accused of indecent assault of his 43-year-old fiancé, who testified at Billotte’s preliminary hearing Wednesday.
“My name is Tyrone Crawley,” she said, explaining to the court that she is a pre-operative transgender person transitioning from male to female. She takes female hormone therapy to soften her body, curve her hips and grow her breasts. But she is still housed with men at Benner, and the state officially views her as a man.
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Defense attorney Richard Settgast questioned how touching her chest could be considered indecent assault.
He cited state definitions of the crime, which require the touching to be of sexual or intimate parts of the body. If a man can show his chest without being charged with indecent exposure, Settgast said, it can’t be considered intimate in a different law.
Assistant District Attorney Daniel McKenrick countered by citing a changing world.
“This is the 21st century,” he said. “She testified that she is transgender. These are her breasts. This is a unique case.”
“You got that right,” Jordan said.
For the judge, one of the most difficult aspects was the motive.
Billotte allegedly told police he had grabbed Crawley’s breasts “for his own sexual gratification.” But, ultimately, Jordan stuck with the letter of the law.
“It is a complex issue,” he said. “Tyrone is still Tyrone.”
He dismissed the case, but told Billotte that the charges might be refiled.
On the stand, Crawley told the court she never meant to have the case go as far as it did.