George Michael arrested over `lewd act'

THE singer George Michael was arrested in a Beverly Hills park, after being caught in a "lewd act" in a public lavatory by an under cover officer, police said yesterday.

The man arrested identified himself to police as Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou, also known as George Michael. He posted bail for $500 (pounds 300) and was released three hours after his arrest yesterday.

Michael, 34, was caught during a police sweep of the Will Rogers Park, which is across the road from the celebrated Beverly Hills Hotel. A "crime suppression unit" was monitoring the park along with several others, Beverly Hills officer Ed Kreins told a press conference.

He said an under cover officer "went into the rest room area and did observe Michael engaged in a lewd act. He was by himself. The officer observed the act and arrested Michael."

He refused to say whether the star exposed himself, but stated that "he was aware he was being observed. We believe that Michael knew there was another individual who has walked into the bathroom and was aware of his presence."

Michael was not the target of the operation which was launched after reports of "lewd acts" at parks used by families and children. The officer who arrested him did not immediately recognise the pop star, until he was booked at the Beverly Hills police station.

The case now goes to a district attorney, who will decide what charges to bring, though typically the penalty on a misdemeanour offence of this nature would be a fine of up to $1,000 (pounds 600).

There was no immediate comment yesterday from Michael's office in London.

Michael shot to stardom with Andrew Ridgeley in the duo Wham! with hits such as "Wake Me Up Before You Go" and "Freedom". After they split in 1986 his first solo album, Fate, sold more than 10 million copies. The single "I Want Your Sex" was banned by many American radio stations.

Though he has long be rumoured to be gay, and he publicly lamented the death of his close Brazilian friend, Anselmo Feleppa, Michael has never come "out of the closet".

He is scheduled to appear in court on 5 May.

In the news, page 3

John Lyttle, page 20

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