Hungarian Consul acquitted

Stephen Gergatz, ex-honorary Hungarian Consul in New Orleans and Sarasota, made news in Hungary and abroad earlier this year, when he was arrested on Casperson Beach, in Florida. This month, Mr. Gergatz was acquitted on all charges, yet Hungary’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs continues to distance itself from the former honorary consul, who was asked to resign following the incident. Below, we are publishing Mr. Gergatz’s account of the indignities of the recent months.

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Stephen Gergatz

You are under arrest! The scruffy looking, disheveled, tattooed, ear pierced detective flashed his badge and told me to follow him. This is not the greeting one expects on a beautiful, bucolic and isolated beach.

My wife and I have been going intermittently to Casperson Beach, Florida to sunbathe and read. On that fateful weekday, end of February, I went by myself to our usual isolated spot, strung up my hammock in the dunes, surrounded by forest on three sides and one hundred feet from the water’s edge. I lined the hammock with a towel and a pillow, took off my clothes and read the New Yorker. Soon a man approached me from the beach when i covered myself. He asked me three questions and then left. This was the investigating detective. Next I was rushed by two frightening looking men, the arresting detectives. Again, I covered myself. They all had hidden micro-cameras. I was arrested for sunbathing in the nude.

I was handcuffed and taken to jail. There, I went through the usual confiscating process, interrogation and admission procedures and locked in a cell with thirteen other prisoners. An orange prison outfit was my uniform. I was allowed to wear my insulin pump, however my diabetes was grossly mismanaged. In the US prisons, type 1 diabetics have a high risk of mortality and morbidity.

The bail was only $500, but I did not have enough cash or a credit card with me.

I was allowed to make collect telephone calls, however my relatives and friends thought that these calls were fraudulent, a scam. Finally a local doctor and her husband paid the bail and picked me up after a total of nine hours of incarceration.

The next day the Hungarian Embassy sent an e-mail requesting information about my arrest.

Three days later, I drove to the airport to pick up my wife who was returning from Hungary. At our house the maid left a message, that a TV crew came to our house looking for me. I made the evening news on three TV stations. “Doctor Stephen Gergatz was arrested for sunbathing in the nude in a hammock. ”An enlarged mugshot, a photo of our home and of the maid were shown. In addition, I was placed in a photomontage of five other men, who were arrested in different locations on the beach on more serious charges over a couple of days. The following days the US and especially the Hungarian media went into a frenzy. Highly sensational and vulgar news was published with incorrect photographs.

Ambassador Szemerkenyi called me and asked me to resign as the honorary Hungarian consul.

The next day the Hungarian consul from Washington flew down to pick up my letter of resignation and consular paraphernalia. The same day I had a cardiac monitor inserted in my chest. The incarceration affected my physical health. Currently I am on blood thinners.

For the weekend we escaped to Fort Lauderdale to evade the harassment. While we were gone for three and a half days, one of our neighbors started a malicious rumor that we committed murder/suicide, because in her experience this was common among Hungarians. The neighborhood association president entered our home to inspect for “criminal activity”. Upon returning home, piles of newspapers were in front of our door and a handwritten hate mail in the mailbox.

In the meantime, my attorney began to prepare for my defense, researching case law. The charge of “indecent exposure in public” was reduced to “disorderly conduct” by the prosecution. After a number of delays, the closed bench trial lasted for two hours. My wife had to testify. The secretly recorded videos were reviewed frame by frame; my private parts were never visible. Judge Phyllis Galen found me not guilty on the reduced charge of disturbing the peace ie. disorderly conduct.

As of this printing, the Hungarian Foreign Ministry never acknowledged the seventeen years of consular work that I gave to the Hungarian Nation. Julia and I were involved in erecting a monument and historical markers, organizing exhibits and lectures, giving out governmental awards and visiting Hungarian prisoners in jail.

We are now trying to put our lives in order.

Stephen J. Gergatz, M.D.

 

4 Comments

  1. Curious George says:

    At his age what exactly did he want to show off? A disheveled prune?
    If you wish to parade around nude- do t in the privacy of your home – why scare the wildlife??

  2. When Prime Minister Orbán was asked recently why he fired his tireless ambassador, Réka Szemerkényi, without cause and gave her just 24 hrs to clear out of the Hungarian embassy in Washington, he shrugged and said, that he doesn’t concern himself with women’s issues. I guess in Dr. Gergatz’s case, if he was pressed for an explanation, he would say, that he doesn’t concern himself with men’s issues. After men and women are taken out of his domain of issues to be concerned with, I wonder what’s left for the wise one to be concerned with ? More monkey business ? All of this is a bit fishy… Dr. Gergatz should be commended for giving the shirt off his back to all those who sought his help in the past. It’s now time for him to keep his shirt on.

  3. Bendeguz79 says:

    You just can NOT go nude on a public beach.
    There are plenty of nudist colonies in Dade county.

    The Hungarian government just wanted to hide from the publicity.
    It was all a childish act by an elderly diplomat.
    Sorry, but that is how file is.
    Ay least he can put his experience behind ,(just cover it !)

  4. Istvan Balog, M.D. says:

    Dear Dr. Gergatz,

    Please accept my sincere condolences over your dreadful ordeal, and the wish to share the joy over your acquittance!

    The betrayal on so many level is heartbreaking.

    Without any doubt, good deeds are punished more harshly than they used to be.

    Walls – even on the beach – what the times call for, enforced by “stand your ground” rigor, even if you have a medical bag nearby.

    With best wishes,

    Istvan Balog MD
    Brunswick, GA

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