Friday, December 4, 2020
Dec. 4, 2020

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Naked cyclist will pay $50 ticket to end criminal case

Vilhauer will be cited for not wearing helmet

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When Matthew Vilhauer was arrested last summer for riding his bicycle nude, one of the few things he was wearing was a helmet.

But Vilhauer, 43, has agreed to pay a $50 fine for bicycling without a helmet, a civil infraction, to end his criminal case.

Last month, a Clark County District Court jury voted five to one to find Vilhauer not guilty of indecent exposure, a misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. With the deadlocked jury, the city of Vancouver was going to have to take the case to trial again.

Court-appointed defense attorney Luka Vitasovic said Tuesday that Vilhauer has accepted the city’s offer of a civil infraction.

While a helmet and shoes were the few things Vilhauer did have on that night, Vitasovic said it’s common practice to let someone take a lesser offense even if it doesn’t square with the facts.

“There isn’t really a ticket that covers what he was doing,” Vitasovic said. And the infraction of cycling without a helmet was one of the cheapest infractions Vitasovic could find.

Vitasovic said Vilhauer knew he’d have a decent shot at being acquitted if the city took the case to trial again, but was ready to end the case and move on.

“I don’t think Matt was looking to be the poster boy for nude expression,” Vitasovic said.

Naked expression

During the May 27 trial, jurors heard that Vilhauer had started the evening of June 18, 2009, with an art show at Angst Gallery in downtown Vancouver. There, he met with approximately two dozen cyclists who were out to celebrate with Todd Boulanger, a cycling advocate who’d recently left his position as a senior transportation planner for the city of Vancouver.

The group cycled to Esther Short Park before starting out on the “Todd’s Low-Brow Bars of Vancouver Ride.” Some cyclists shed their clothes.

One cyclist testified that it’s not uncommon for cyclists to ride naked in an expression of the vulnerability they feel on the road. Another cyclist said she knows she was topless but couldn’t remember whether she’d taken off her pants. “We do naked bike riding a lot in Portland in the summer, so it’s hard to remember,” said Adriane Ackerman.

But as assistant city attorney Todd George repeatedly told jurors, “This is not Portland.”

As the bar-hopping went on, the group thinned out.

Vancouver Police Officer Scott Telford testified that he arrested Vilhauer after people on Main Street were hooting and hollering at Vilhauer.

Vilhauer testified that he’s an avid cyclist who builds custom bikes and had participated in Portland’s annual World Naked Bike Ride three times. He said he was wearing a helmet and shoes and his clothes were in his backpack. He said he felt the reaction from the Main Street crowd was positive.

Vitasovic said Tuesday that while Vilhauer didn’t have to spend his own money to defend himself as he received a court-appointed attorney, he realized the public expense of having the case linger in the court system. Since he won’t end up pleading guilty to a criminal charge, Vilhauer won’t even have to pay the standard court fees.

“He’s just going to be out $50,” Vitasovic said.

Stephanie Rice: 360-725-4508 or stephanie.rice@columbian.com.

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