Wednesday, 29 May 2024

Playground donor faces indecent exposure charges

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The new playground equipment that Justin Lazard donated to the city of Lakeport. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




NOTE: This article includes some explicit terms that may not be appropriate for children.


LAKEPORT – A New York man who recently made a gift to the city of Lakeport is facing trial this March for charges stemming from a July 2006 arrest.


Justin F. Lazard, 42, goes on trial March 3 for indecent exposure and annoying or molesting a child, according to Deputy District Attorney Ed Borg.


Lazard – an actor, writer and former model – recently gave a new set of playground equipment to the city, which was dedicated in a small ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday, as Lake County News has reported.


The case against Lazard alleges that he was sitting on the metal railing that runs along the sidewalk at the lakeshore in Library Park, just north of the playground area, exposing himself and masturbating during the July 4, 2006, festivities.


Lazard's attorney, Paul Swanson, did not return a call seeking comment on the case.


Lt. Brad Rasmussen of the Lakeport Police Department said Lazard was arrested at about 6:18 p.m. July 4, 2006, after three officers on foot patrol encountered him. Lazard was allegedly sitting alone on the railing, with his genitals exposed.


Rasmussen said Lazard was told to stop but didn't, so the officers grabbed him. Lazard allegedly resisted arrest and began fighting the officers, so Rasmussen tasered him. That gave Lazard the dubious distinction of becoming the first person to be tasered by the police department's new tasers.


There was no evidence that Lazard was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, said Rasmussen, and he offered no explanation for his alleged behavior.


Rasmussen said that, following the taser incident, Lazard received a medical clearance from paramedics at Lakeport Fire Protection District, which is standard procedure after use of a taser on a subject.


Both charges currently against Lazard are misdemeanors, Borg said. The annoying/molesting charge would carry a one-year maximum sentence, while the longest sentence for the indecent exposure charge is six months.


“The most he's facing is one year in county jail,” said Borg. “It would be extremely unusual for him to get that.”


Since Lazard doesn't have much in the way of a criminal record beyond the 2006 charges, Borg said he's more likely to receive probation if he's convicted.


However, Borg added that conviction on the charges would require mandatory registration as a sexual offender in California and possibly New York, where Lazard now lives.


Borg said the playground equipment donation Lazard made to the city of Lakeport hasn't been brought up in relation to his criminal case.


However, it's proved to be a thorny issue for Lakeport officials, who at first didn't realize Lazard had been arrested on the indecent exposure charge by police in 2006.


Kevin Burke, interim city manager and police chief, said that Creative Playthings, the Framingham, Mass.-based manufacturer of the playground equipment, contacted city Public Works Director Doug Grider about the donation about six months ago.


“Our public works staff did not know who the individual was,” said Burke, adding that city staff also haven't had contact with Lazard.


However, it came to their attention sometime during the process of formally accepting the equipment that he was the source of the donation, said Burke.


“At that time it was discussed at length amongst city staff about whether or not we should accept the donation,” Burke said.


Ultimately city staff decided to accept the equipment – which came with no strings attached of any kind – because it would offer a substantial benefit to the children who use the park, he explained.


Burke said the city was aware of the potential public perception that it was an attempt by Lazard – who also is the heir to a banking fortune – to buy his way out of trouble.


However, coming from his police perspective, Burke suggested that many people accused of crimes do some kind of restitution.


Considering the sensitive nature of the the charges against Lazard, Burke said he is planning to have city public works staff remove the plaque on the equipment.


The plaque reads:


“This playground is dedicated to the children of Lakeport, CA,

Creating Childhood Memories

Donated by Justin Lazard, 2008.”


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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