A former Disney actor charged with attempting to hook up with an underage boy via Grindr complained he is unlikely to face a fair trial as he fears his judge is anti-gay.
Actor Stoney Westmoreland, 49, was arrested last December in Salt Lake City, Utah. Authorities say he was attempting to arrange a sexual meet up with a boy he believed was 13.
Westmoreland allegedly sent photos to the user, sexual messages, asked the boy for nudes and sex, and then sent a cab via a taxi ride app to pick him up and bring him to a hotel room he’d booked. The 13-year-old turned out to be an undercover police officer.
Until his arrest, Westmoreland had a recurring role on Disney’s TV show, Andi Mack. Upon his arrest, Disney immediately fired him. He has also appeared in Scandal, NCIS: Los Angeles, Breaking Bad, and Weeds.
Westmoreland has pleaded not guilty to coercion and enticement of a minor.
As he approaches his trial, Westmoreland has claimed he cannot face a fair hearing. His reasoning? As a private attorney, the federal district judge dealing with his case previously represented clients who wanted to uphold the Proposition 8 same-sex marriage ban in California.
In court documents filed last month, Westmoreland’s attorney claims Judge Howard Nielson Jr is likely biased against gay people and therefore cannot be impartial.
They said that Nielson previously argued in court that homosexuality is a choice and that conversion therapy can change people from being gay to straight.
They note that some Congress members also opposed Nielson’s federal appointment earlier this year, citing a belief he may be anti-gay.
Westmoreland, via his attorney’s documents, asked the judge to recuse himself from the case.
However, the judge declined the request and rebuffed claims he cannot be impartial. He says his personal views cannot be inferred from the clients he has represented in the past.
“I can state categorically and unequivocally that I do not harbor any personal bias or prejudice concerning Mr. Westmoreland,” he said, according to Deseret News.
Nielson says any assumption that he shares the same views as clients he has represented in the past is incorrect, as well as the assumption he cannot keep any personal views from influencing his interpretation of the law.
“Neither assumption is reasonable,” the judge wrote in his response.
“Indeed, even if I in fact held the personal views that defendant imputes to me based on positions that he believes I advanced on behalf of my clients — and I do not — a reasonable person would not assume that as a judge I would follow those views rather than the law that I have sworn to uphold.”
In court documents, Westmoreland is identified as bisexual. His attorney says, “The case will involve a detailed examination of the hook-up culture for homosexual men, how it works and what it means psychologically.”
Westmoreland’s trial is set for March. However, before then he is due in court on January, 3, to answer questions about potential breaches of his bail conditions.