N.J. (Asbury Park Press) -- Topless rights proponent Phoenix Feeley was sentenced to 16 days
in the Monmouth County Jail on Thursday - or, in her estimation, a
The food there is "inhumane, grade four, less than
McDonald's" and the water has dirt in it and it made her want to throw
up, she told Municipal Court Judge George C. Pappas during a brief video
conference from the Freehold Township lockup.
"You just filed a
death sentence," Feeley told the judge. She said she is not eating in
the jail and doesn't think she will live through the experience.
landed in the county jail Monday after refusing for years to pay an
$816 fine for taking her top off and exposing her breasts on a Spring
Lake beach in June 2008.
Feeley, 33, told Pappas that her jail cell has a message of "help me" written in blood - and not her blood either, she said.
claimed to have been abused and threatened by two guards at the jail,
and that she had been naked in her jail cell for the last 48 hours.
she appeared in the video conference, she wore a maroon jumper and her
hands were cuffed behind her back. Feeley, who lives in New York City,
often tilted her head, furrowed her eyebrows and clenched her teeth when
the judge spoke. The hearing was held in Belmar, where Spring Lake has a
shared agreement for court services.
Pappas recounted the charges
against Feeley, who was arrested in 2008 on Spring Lake's Salem Avenue
beach for not wearing a top and refusing to cover her chest. She claims
that it is discriminatory for women to have to cover themselves while
men can bare their chests just about anywhere.
After she was
released from the Spring Lake jail, Feeley went shirtless down two local
streets, where 25 to 30 people gathered, according to a police report.
She again was arrested.
In police reports, an alternate name for
Feeley is listed as Jill Coccaro and her occupation is listed as
"artist." Her website, phoenixfeeley.com,
describes her as a fire-eating performer who works underground parties
and who has been involved in two records, "including being the only
female on the planet to catch a knife thrown by professional knife
thrower The Great Throwdini on a full turn."
She also performs on
stilts, throws knives and performs a whip routine "that will scare and
delight you," according to the website. However, it notes that "Phoenix
plans on retiring from some of the more deadly arts by September 2013."
received a settlement of $29,000 in New York City in 2007 after she was
charged with indecent exposure in 2005, according to the Associated
In New Jersey, Feeley was convicted of being undressed in
public, obstruction and disorderly conduct in 2009, but she appealed the
charges in state Superior Court in Freehold. Two were affirmed and one
of the appeals was granted, Pappas said. She was fined $816 but refused
She was arrested Monday and booked at the county jail, and has been under constant supervision there while on a hunger strike.
Pappas asked Feeley if she intended to pay her fines, she said no. He
asked if financial circumstances prohibited her from paying the fines
and offered a monthly payment arrangement. She scoffed.
"I have a
direct appeal in to the U.S. Supreme Court about (these) criminal
charges that are discriminatory against my gender," she said, later
adding, "I refuse to pay the fines for an act that is legal for a man
but not legal for a woman."
Pappas suggested to Feeley that she
file a formal grievance about her treatment in jail, but Feeley told him
she had been denied access to a grievance form, a library, a lawyer and
a phone call.
"None of my rights are being upheld while I'm in here. None of them," she said.
County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Cynthia Scott said in an email that
she is prohibited from commenting on an inmate's health, but that
Feeley remained under constant watch. Such inmates are not housed in the
jail's general population, she said.
"The correctional and
medical staff continue to take the necessary steps to ensure the
inmate's health, safety and well-being, as they do with all inmates, and
will continue to do so for as long as she remains at the correctional
facility," Scott wrote in a statement.
Instead of paying the $816
in fines with money, Pappas said Feeley could instead pay with jail
time, at a rate of $50 a day. But the math is fuzzy: it costs taxpayers
$179 a day to house an inmate at the jail, Sheriff Shaun Golden has
Court administrator Kathryn Garrecht said the judge was not calculating how much it costs to keep her in the jail.
"The $50 (a day) is going toward the fines she owes," Garrecht said. "He's just trying to wipe out the fines for her."
Pappas gave Feeley four days of credit for time already served.
He again suggested she make a formal grievance for her complaints, but Feeley was not welcoming.
"OK, so, whatever, I'm dead," she said.