In December 1978, America’s notorious serial killer, John Wayne Gacy, was arrested for murder and “lewd and lascivious” crimes as well as murdering 33 young men.

By the time Gacy went to trial, the “lewd and lascivious” charges had been dropped, and Gacy would be sentenced to death on the murder charges.

What is lewd and lascivious behavior?

Lascivious Behavior

Lascivious behavior is sexual conduct or behavior which is seen as offensive, crude or contrary to local standards of appropriate behavior. Within this sense, “lascivious” is similar to “lewdness.”

In American ‘legalese,’ it is a quasi-technical term meaning immoral sexual actions and is frequently used in the legal description of criminal acts where some sort of sexual activity is prohibited.

The definition used by the courts vary across jurisdictions and time.

For instance, in 1896 lasciviousness and lewdness referred to the crime of living with a member of the opposite sex. As recently as 2015, Florida, Michigan, and Mississippi, still considered unmarried cohabitation a crime.

Two recent examples illustrate.

Chris Kindler

Christopher E. Kindler, 43 was found guilty recently. The charge: Lewdness with a child younger than fourteen. Kindler was charged with five lewdness counts, plus a single count of attempted lewdness. The victims were three boys, eleven and twelve years old.

Kindler was arrested when the twelve-year-old’s mom found a text message Kindler sent to her son which included a conversation of taking a bath with the child. The mother went to the police, and the ensuing investigation found two other boys who were victimized.

During the trial, District Attorney Amos Stege provided evidence Kindler bought the boys gifts and allowed them to use his computer while he kissed and hugged the boys.

“These kids were brave for testifying,” Stege told reporters. “We are relieved to have another predator off the streets.”

Jeffrey Wrightman

On May 1, 2018, Jeffrey Wrightman pleaded with a judge after being arrested and charged with public lewdness.

Wrightman, 60, of White Plains, had been arrested after exposing himself to an adult at the Ossining Public Library the last week in April. Wrightman, a teacher at Somers High School, was placed on leave when the school district’s administrators learned of the matter. Wrightman had worked at the school since 2003.

Ossining’s Police Chief said Wrightman didn’t have a criminal record but did seek out anyone who may have had a similar confrontation with Wrightman.