A District man who for the last 10 months has been maintaining a 24-hour-a-day peace vigil in Lafayette Park has been ordered to spend 30 days in the woods for his conviction on charges of camping in the park.
U.S. District Judge Oliver Gasch imposed the camping-in-the-woods requirement Friday as a condition of placing Stephen Semple, 26, on six months' probation.
Invoking the teachings of Henry David Thoreau, Gasch suggested that Semple might find the camping best in the Shenandoah National Forest in Virginia.
During his sentencing for the misdemeanor offense, Gasch said Semple may have been deprived of too much sleep by maintaining his vigil and recalled that during Semple's trial July 1 he said he was able to get a good night's sleep only when he was in the woods.
Gasch ordered Semple to report on his experiences at a Sept. 16 hearing.
"I think he did it out of the goodness of his heart," Semple's attorney, Nina Kraut, said yesterday, "but I think it may be problematic under the Constitution."
Kraut said Gasch's order appears to ban Semple from Lafayette Park, and perhaps the District, for 30 days. "I don't know where he is going to find any woods in the District, except in another federal park where he would be arrested for camping, too," she said.
Kraut said Semple, who has no fixed address, has maintained virtually a round-the-clock vigil for peace and an end to militarism since late September or early October.
"This is a tremendous interference with what he wants to do," Kraut said.
It was unclear from Gasch's order if Semple must remain in the woods for the entire 30 days or if he is required only to sleep in the woods.
Gasch was out of town yesterday and could not be reached for comment.
Semple, who was convicted of camping in the park last Dec. 27 and 28, has filed a notice of appeal and is expected to ask the U.S. Court of Appeals to hear an expedited appeal of Gasch's order.