More than eight months ago, Occupy Denver protester (and former Westword cover subject) Corey Donahue called it a "bad nut-tap joke gone wrong." But this morning, during his trial for the misdemeanor charge of unlawful sexual contact, the events of October 15 grew more serious. After a day-long trial that tested the difference between a "nut tap," a "nut job" and a "nut cup," a jury found Donahue guilty of the charge, which could bring up to eighteen months in jail.
The sex offense also requires that Donahue, who is 29, register as a sex offender. Although Donahue was also charged with third-degree assault for the same incident, the jury rejected that charge.
The story began shortly after Occupy Denver did: During the second large police raid on Occupy Denver, CBS4 photojournalist Robert McClure entered the Thunderdome, the occupation's former anarchist kitchen, to shoot video footage of its new location in Civic Center Park. At that point in time, police officers had recently demanded the Thunderdome be removed. (Only the day before, the kitchen fell during Occupy Denver's first eviction, that time from Lincoln Park across the street.) It was McClure's first day covering the movement.
In footage shown during the trial, McClure can be seen approaching Thunderdome cook Justin "Crunchy" Gwin and asking about the developing situation. As Gwin explains, Donahue joins in, prompting McClure to ask that the two cooks take turns speaking because "this is television." Here, he turns the camera off.
The majority of yesterday's trial revolved around the different perceptions of what followed. According to McClure, who has worked for CBS4 for seventeen years, Donahue asked if he had other equipment, and when McClure said no, Donahue responded, "Fuck you" and grabbed McClure's genitals. McClure said the gesture was neither expected, prompted or wanted, and a few hours later, when the day's events had progressed, he notified a police officer of what had happened.
According to both Donahue and Gwin, who testified on behalf of his fellow Thunderdome activist, Donahue's hand never made contact with McClure's body. Donahue's attorney, Travis Simpson, argued that Donahue would have had to reach around Gwin, who stood between the two men, in order to accomplish this. "Corey Donahue motions around a large man, laughs and walks away," Simpson maintained, referring to the difference between nouns applied in the case. "But he does not touch Mr. McClure. There was no contact."
During testimony, however, McClure maintained that Donahue reached for and grabbed his testicles without consent, and while he experienced no pain or pressure, the action was undesired, he said. "I described it to the police as a gentle cup," McClure told the court, continuing that he is 100 percent certain of the contact and has experienced nothing similar to it in nearly two decades on the job.
Click through for the rest of the story. Donahue told Westword his account two days after the incident and he stuck to the same details in court. Here's an excerpt from our previous post:
"The cop was being very hostile, and there were cameras all around us all the time," Donahue said. "In the Thunderdome here, dick jokes and that kind of thing are the norm, and we all embrace it and have fun. I feigned a nut tap at the photographer, and I was accused of groping him. If you ask anyone who was around me, they will tell you that they never saw me do that -- because it didn't happen."
This charge is only Donahue's most recent turn in court. The longtime activist was one of four people arrested at both of the occupation's first two altercations, and during his time at the occupation, he has incurred charges including unlawful conduct on state property, resisting arrest, inciting a riot and assault on a police officer, most of which have since changed or been dismissed. In November, two state troopers filed protection orders against Donahue.
Donahue is also well-known for his role in the medical marijuana community, where his activism has resulted in additional charges, including petty theft. In August 2011, Donahue placed a request for information with the Marijuana Enforcement Division but took the paperwork from the office without paying for it.
In December, Donahue was convicted on charges of trespassing and fighting words. The case behind both stemmed from an incident last summer in which Donahue interrupted a meeting at the Boulder Public Library arranged by proponents of the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol act, which he fervently opposes. When those at the meeting complained and Donahue refused to leave, an officer removed Donahue from the premises. Donahue called that officer an "ass clown" -- twice. He plans to appeal the court outcome.
More from our Follow That Story archive: "Occupy Denver: Corey Donahue says sexual contact arrest is 'bad nut-tap joke gone wrong.'"
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.