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Police charge woman for parading semi-nude dressed as pope

| Friday, May 10, 2013, 12:18 p.m.

Carnegie Mellon University police on Friday filed charges of indecent exposure against two art students accused of public nudity during a campus parade sponsored by the College of Fine Arts.

Police identified the female student accused of parodying the pope as she paraded nude from the waist down as Katherine B. O'Connor, 19, no address provided.

O'Connor, a sophomore art major whose parody made national news, has not responded to requests for comment.

University President Jared Cohon, who has publicly apologized for the April 18 papal parody, announced the charges in an email on Friday. He said the university will not discipline the students.

Police charged Robb S. Godshaw, 22, of Wilmette, Ill., accusing him of dressing as an astronaut and disrobing atop a float during the parade. Photographs on Godshaw's Facebook page show him disrobing and riding the float naked, police said in court documents.

Godshaw, listed as a junior art major in the Carnegie Mellon directory, declined to comment.

“On the advice of counsel, neither myself nor fellow nude artist are giving comments at this time,” Godshaw wrote in an email.

The criminal charges capped a university review triggered by an inquiry from Bishop David Zubik of the Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese. Zubik asked the university to take a stand on the papal parody, which he found offensive.

Zubik said in a statement Friday that he is satisfied that university officials treated the incident seriously.

“As I have said over these last few weeks, this is an opportunity for all of us to be reminded that freedom of speech and freedom of expression do not constitute a freedom to dismiss or disrespect the beauty of anyone's race, the sacredness of anyone's religious belief or the uniqueness of anyone's nationality,” Zubik said.

Police said O'Connor told officers that she is upset that she was portrayed as handing out condoms, and she denied doing so. She told police that she initially submitted a proposal for a humorous approach for her performance but was encouraged to “develop a concept with a political edge,” although court documents do not say by whom.

Students told police that the Art Department hired a performance artist not affiliated with Carnegie Mellon, Pat Oleszko of New York City, to coordinate the event and work with students on campus for a month, police said in documents filed to support of the charges. Oleszko could not be reached.

“The students took part in a campus art event and, in the case of the student who portrayed herself as the Pope, made an artistic statement which proved to be controversial,” Cohon said.

“While I recognize that many found the students' activities deeply offensive, the university upholds their right to create works of art and express their ideas. But, public nudity is a violation of the law and subject to appropriate action.”

Debra Erdley is a staff writer for TribTotal Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7996 or derdley@tribweb.com.

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