Man attempting to help mentally disabled boy in his care wrongfully arrested in controversial gay sex sting

Last March, Charles Couch was attempting to aid a mentally disabled boy in his care when he was arrested in a controversial Manhattan Beach, California bathroom sex sting that resulted in the police releasing his name and photograph to the public. Now, Couch is suing the city, alleging he was subjected to a false arrest, unlawful search and seizure, and a number of other civil rights violations.


The sting in question took place in a Manhattan Beach bathroom that, according to police, is notorious for homosexual men seeking anonymous sex. City police arrested eighteen men during the sting, then published their names, ages and photographs.

Couch is seeking $5 million in damages because, he claims, he wasn't propositioning strangers for sex when he entered the bathroom -- he was attempting to help a fourteen-year-old mentally disabled boy under his care.

According to the lawsuit filed today, Couch said the boy in his charge needed to use the restroom, so he allowed him to go into the bathroom and waited outside. It wasn't unusual, the suit alleges, for the child to take an "abnormally long time" in the restroom. Eventually, an undercover officer entered the stall next to the child, who soon "bolted from the stall" and told Couch a man was looking at him through a "hole" in the bathroom stall.

Couch and his ward tried to leave, when they were confronted by five plainclothes officers. Not realizing they were police and fearing for his charge's safety, Couch tried to leave with the boy, but was "tackled, choked and handcuffed" by officers, who then detained him for several hours.

According to the lawsuit, the child's parents eventually vouched for Couch and explained their child's condition, and he was released. His laptop, which had been seized when police searched his car, wasn't returned for months.

Watch a report on the incident from KCAL9 Los Angeles below.