A man charged with indecent exposure after two women said they saw him naked inside his own home was acquitted Wednesday by a Virginia jury.
Erick Williamson, 29, has argued since his October arrest that he should not be punished for being naked in the privacy of his own home.
Police and prosecutors, as well as the two women who testified against him, said he intended to expose himself and made no attempt to conceal himself in a residential neighborhood filled with children.
"It's really a weight off my shoulders after these last six months," Williamson said after his acquittal. "I think (the verdict) kind of sets the record straight. It was an innocent action."
In December, a judge in Fairfax County's General District Court convicted Williamson of misdemeanor indecent exposure, but imposed neither jail time nor a fine. Still, Williamson appealed his case to the county's circuit court, risking a maximum punishment of a year in jail to clear his name.
"When you know you've done nothing wrong, it's hard to take these kind of accusations and not stand up to it," said Williamson, an out-of-work commercial diver who racked up thousands of dollars in legal fees.
At the time of his arrest, Williamson was sharing a home in Springfield with other commercial divers. He testified Wednesday that his roommates had gone to work and left him alone in the house for the first time in months. He was moving out, and decided to pack his belongings and make breakfast in the nude.
Two women testified that they saw him naked that morning. The first, a school librarian, said she heard a loud moan and drunken singing. Then, as she drove by Williamson's house at about 6:40 a.m., she saw him in the buff and called 911.
A police officer came by the house, saw nothing unusual and left.
Drunken singing alleged
Then, two hours later, Yvette Dean testified that she was walking her 7-year-old son to school when she saw a naked Williamson standing in an exterior doorway on the side of his home with the screen door wide open.
Dean testified that she made eye contact, angrily gave him the finger and hustled her son away. As she turned the corner, she looked back and saw Williamson from a front window, again completely naked.
Williamson did not dispute that the women may have seen him, but said he did not see them and did not make eye contact with Dean. He testified that if he had known he'd been seen, he would have put his pants on and gone outside and apologized.
Under Virginia law, indecent exposure occurs when a person intentionally makes an obscene display of his or her private parts. The law does not necessarily require the exposure to be in a public place — it allows for prosecution when the exposure occurs in a "place where others are present."
Prosecutor Marc Birnbaum said the circumstances of the case, from the librarian's testimony about loud moaning and drunken singing to Dean's testimony about eye contact, showed that Williamson intended to expose himself.
"This isn't a case about being naked in your house. This is a case about intentional exposure," Birnbaum said.