Former Disney Channel actor Stoney Westmoreland and his attorneys allege that US District Judge Howard Nielson, Jr. is biased against gay people, and therefore, must recuse himself from a case on charges of enticing a minor. Westmoreland claims that, given Judge Nielson’s personal bias, a fair trial is impossible. The trial is scheduled to begin in March in Salt Lake City.
Prosecutors say Westmoreland enticed a 13-year-old boy to his room at the Little America Hotel in Salt Lake City in December 2018. The “boy” was actually an undercover police officer. Later, on January 3 of this year, Westmoreland was sentenced to two days of jail for violating the terms of his probation.
The Hollywood Reporter notes that Westmoreland’s behavior brought him six felony counts: enticing a minor, attempted exploitation of a minor, and four counts of dealing in material harmful to a minor by an adult.
Westmoreland’s assertion stems from Judge Nielson’s participation in Proposition 8 in California. There, he privately advocated for the proponents of Prop 8, which makes impartiality impossible, he said in court documents filed in November 2019. His defense attorney, Wendy Lewis, in court documents, revealed that the judge argued that homosexuality is a choice that can be reversed through conversion therapy, the practice of which is debunked by national psychological organizations.
Judge Nielson fervently refutes these allegations. He claims his duties as an attorney for Prop 8 proponents do not reflect his personal views. He further argues that his personal views will not guide his handling of Westmoreland’s case. He must execute his responsibilities as a judge according to the law, and he refutes the idea that he would do otherwise.
To assume that the positions he argued on behalf of his clients would “improperly influence” him is unreasonable, he claimed. It should be noted that Judge Nielson did not disclose what his personal views are, but he did say that he does not hold the same views as his clients.
“I can state categorically and unequivocally that I do not harbor any personal bias or prejudice concerning Mr. Westmoreland,” the judge wrote.
When Nielson was appointed to his position, 59 congress members, all Democrats, were opposed. They wrote in their statement that Nielson is biased against LGBTQ people. Nielson was approved due to the support of Republicans, including Utah senators Mitt Romney and Mike Lee.
Westmoreland reportedly enticed the 13-year-old boy on the popular dating app Grindr, where gay, bisexual, and transgender men arrange social and sexual encounters. Court documents submitted by Lewis say that the gay lifestyle which includes the “hook-up” culture, a “distinctly nontraditional” component.
‘The case will involve a detailed examination of the hook-up culture for homosexual men, how it works and what it means psychologically,’ Lewis wrote. A number of witnesses, she said, are likely to be gay men who testify about Westmoreland’s background, including his transition from a heterosexual marriage to being “an out, homosexual man.”