The attorney of a Central Michigan University professor arrested for disturbing the peace is questioning whether any laws were actually broken.
CMU philosophy professor John Meixner, 63, allegedly took pictures of young girls and women at the Mecosta County Agricultural Free Fair on July 13, leading to his arrest nearly a month later on Aug. 7.
Defense Attorney Daniel O’Neil said Meixner was sitting on a bench when police officers approached him and grabbed his camera.
“All he was doing was sitting on a bench, wide-open in the public snapping some photographs,” O’Neil said. “Nobody complained, nobody said they were bothered, and he wasn’t asked to stop.”
According to court documents shared with Central Michigan Life, the pictures he took appeared to be “centered mostly on the buttocks and thigh area” of young girls and adult women. Photos recovered by police did not include any faces, and the subjects were fully clothed.
O’Neil said he has seen the pictures and that only one was just above the knees of some young girl or woman.
“He did nothing illegal,” O’Neil said. “I mean there are 200 of these photographs of everything and everybody participating at the county fair. Photography is his hobby.”
Meixner has been talking to the police and prosecutor for several weeks, O’Neil said. The defense attorney also gave some insight into what he thought the charges were for.
“My suspicion is that they are trying to look for something that’s not there and they couldn’t find it,” O’Neil said. “And now they are falling back on disturbing the peace.”
This is the third time Meixner has been asked to leave from a public place for taking photographs, although this is the first instance that has resulted in an arrest.
A few years ago, CMU Police were called and asked if they could respond to an incident in the parking lot of Wal-Mart in Mount Pleasant.
CMU Police Chief Bill Yeagley shared information regarding the incident at Wal-Mart after receiving a FOIA request from CM Life.
“It was a suspicious situation. When we got there an officer made contact with the individual and identified the individual and asked him to leave the area,” Yeagley said. “He was making people nervous, but it is not illegal to take photographs of folks in a public place.”
Mecosta County Sheriff Todd Purcell could not comment on why Meixner was taking the pictures, but he reiterated what some of the parents had seen that made them call the police.
“(Parents) saw a gentleman taking photos of young children, particularly girls, while they were on rides and while they were walking away from him,” Purcell said.
Although Meixner has not been contacted by the school, CMU Director of Public Relations Steve Smith issued a statement Tuesday, saying the university has been made aware of the arrest through news reports.
“At this point, we are monitoring the situation as closely as possible while also allowing the legal system to proceed,” Smith said. “Maintaining a safe and nurturing learning environment is of utmost concern to us.”
The new school year will begin in 10 days when the first classes start on Aug. 26.
Meixner, a 1990 recipient of the CMU Excellence in Teaching award, will appear in Mecosta County’s 77th District Court on Sept. 4 for a pretrial conference on the charge of disturbing the peace.