Boulder Topless Gardener's Husband: Assault Charge After Defending Wife's Bare Breasts

Back in 2010, one of the more unusual stories to come out of Boulder (a place that generates eccentric news on a regular basis) involved Catharine Pierce, a 52-year-old woman who was threatened with eviction for gardening topless. Pierce was eventually allowed to stay, since her actions are actually legal under Boulder law. But now, she's generating new headlines after her husband, Robert Pierce, allegedly got physical with a security guard, who'd told Catharine she couldn't go without a shirt at an RTD center. Photos, videos and details below.

See also: Sorry, Kids: Woman Who Insists on Gardening Topless Near School is 52

How was the public introduced to Catharine and Robert? Here are excerpts from our March 2010 post, which featured the account of Boulder spokeswoman Sarah Huntley:
"We got a call...from an individual who was upset that [Catharine] was apparently outside with no shirt on," Huntley says. "This is not a yard that's concealed. It's very visible from the sidewalk. And the person who called us was upset, because there's a school around the corner, and this person believed schoolchildren were going to be exposed to this. So we sent an officer out to talk to her."

Talking was all the officer could do under current Boulder law. District Attorney Stan Garnett has lobbied in favor of a public nudity ordinance as a way of dealing with annual events such as the Naked Pumpkin Run and the World Naked Bike Ride. That way, participants could be charged with lesser penalties as opposed to more serious sex offenses that didn't fit the crime, he said.

The Boulder American Civil Liberties Union objected to this concept for a slew of reasons, including the notion that the ordinance would criminalize the aerolas of women's nipples while legalizing those belong to men. And while the ordinance moved forward in the city council process last month, the segment about nipples was dropped.

For that reason, Huntley says, the officer did nothing more than "ask her if she would consider putting a shirt on."

After that, she continues, "she went inside and the officer left. But then her husband [Robert Pierce] called our department quite upset, saying the officer told her to put her shirt on, and isn't it true it's not illegal? And the supervisor confirmed that it isn't illegal under the current law -- but just because something's illegal doesn't mean an officer can't make a request based on the totality of the circumstances. The officer's particular concern is that we had received one complaint at that point, and there was a close proximity to a school, and children would presumably be walking by the house soon."

Robert Pierce didn't share this concern, Huntley says: "Once the supervisor agreed with the husband that, in fact, she wasn't doing anything illegal, the husband notified the supervisor that she would go back outside and continue gardening."

And she did -- after which the BPD phone started ringing.

"We got a total of four additional complaints from neighbors and parents who expected us to do something about the situation," Huntley notes. "We advised them that there was really nothing to do about the situation except talk with her, which we'd already done."

It didn't take long for the Pierces' story to go national, with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly dubbing her the Pinhead of the Week for her actions. That clip, on view below, included two images that may or may not depict Pierce. Here's the first....

...which currently resides on a Spanish-language blog that uses it in semi-satirical fashion.

As for the second image.... looks more like a stock photo than a pic of Pierce, who can be seen alongside Robert in this screen capture of 2010 coverage from the Boulder Daily Camera: Whatever the case, Catharine and Robert faded from the headlines only to reappear in the Camera this week for an incident that reportedly took place over the summer.

On July 17, according to a police report obtained by the newspaper, Catharine was at the Boulder Transit Center sans any covering on her top half -- something she'd apparently done in the past, prompting personnel to tell her she couldn't be topless on the RTD's property.

This time, Catharine is said to have put a shirt on -- but then Robert allegedly confronted the guard, with angry words and pokes escalating to something of a wrestling match. The report maintains that Robert pushed and hit the guard, only stopping after he was handcuffed.

Afterward, Catharine, who allegedly grabbed the guard's arm during the scuffle, said she'd been either punched or jabbed in the stomach: "What's the difference?" she's quoted as saying. Robert, for his part, told police that he was "President Eisenhower's son and was going to run for sheriff for Boulder County," the Camera reports.

This isn't the only presidential reference attributed to Robert. While visiting Ohio last year, the Camera notes, he was briefly detained but not charged after supposedly saying he was going to "kill Obama and take him down."

For the latest dust-up, Robert was accused of third-degree assault and third-degree trespassing -- offenses to be adjudicated at a jury trial in November. Catharine, in contrast, faces no allegations. However, she may be disappointed that today's a little chilly for topless gardening.

Here's the aforementioned Bill O'Reilly snippet, followed by a Boulder Daily Camera video from 2010 capturing reactions to the original controversy.

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts