Police in New York arrest woman for ‘molesting’ Santa

Thursday, June 18, 1998

For Gina Ferarro, cavorting with Santa Claus in the middle of a residential street is free expression. But for the Kingston, N.Y., police, it's grounds for public lewdness and disorderly conduct charges.


Authorities on June 6 arrested Ferarro outside her family's house after she fondled a 12-foot Santa doll, exposed her breasts and dropped her pants. Last Friday, Ferarro, 33, entered a not-guilty plea and was ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.


Ferarro, who's disabled and uses a wheelchair, says she was filming a documentary and that while her actions might seem crazy, they are protected by the First Amendment.


While she said she wasn't certain if she'll contest the psychiatric evaluation, Ferarro said she plans to battle the issue in court until she wins. No court date has been set.


“Absolutely. It's a 100 percent violation of my rights,” Ferarro told said.  “I'm ready to go all the way with this one.”


Film student Adam Zaretsky described Ferarro as “a counterculture icon with green hair and a foul mouth. She's sort of punk, but when you capture her at the right moment she's incredibly lucid.”


That's why Zaretsky chose her as the subject for a short video documentary, a film that will serve as his master's thesis at the Art Institute in Chicago.


He said filming began during the late afternoon on June 6 in her family's house in Kingston. Wishing to capture Ferarro at sunset, Zaretsky moved filming outside where they found a 12-foot Santa doll in a nearby trash bin.


“We threw it in the street. Then she started ad-libbing with the doll, beating him up, having sex with him, singing with him,” Zaretsky said. “If we can get the camera back, it's great footage.”


Both Zaretsky and Ferarro said she pulled her shirt up and her pants down. But they both said she had bandages covering her nipples and large boxer shorts under her pants.


“For me as an artist, it was great,” Zaretsky said. “It sounds like it might have been lewd, but there was no nudity.”


Police arrested Ferarro. Zaretsky said they took the camera and confiscated the tape.


Calls placed to the Kingston Police Department and the Ulster County District Attorney's office were not returned.


Zaretsky said the film is not only protected speech because of its artistic value but because of its political nature. He said Ferarro has a long-standing feud with Kingston police, especially after she won a wrongful eviction case against them several years ago.


“I feel that if it was someone else it would have been ignored,” Ferarro said.


And, of course, there's Santa.


“There should be a 'humping Santa clause' that under the First Amendment should let us hump Santa,” Zaretsky said. “She feels slandered by the local paper because they said she was fondling herself.”


“I have nothing to hide. When I do something, I go right out and say it,” Ferarro said. “If they wrote what was true—'Gina Ferarro was molesting Santa Claus'—then I wouldn't have a problem with them.”