BELMAR,N.J. (Asbury Park Press) -- Topless rights proponent Phoenix Feeley was sentenced to 16 daysin the Monmouth County Jail on Thursday - or, in her estimation, adeath sentence.
The food there is "inhumane, grade four, less thanMcDonald's" and the water has dirt in it and it made her want to throwup, she told Municipal Court Judge George C. Pappas during a brief videoconference from the Freehold Township lockup.
"You just filed adeath sentence," Feeley told the judge. She said she is not eating inthe jail and doesn't think she will live through the experience.
Shelanded 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 SpringLake 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.
Sheclaimed 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.
Whenshe appeared in the video conference, she wore a maroon jumper and herhands were cuffed behind her back. Feeley, who lives in New York City,often tilted her head, furrowed her eyebrows and clenched her teeth whenthe judge spoke. The hearing was held in Belmar, where Spring Lake has ashared agreement for court services.
Pappas recounted the chargesagainst Feeley, who was arrested in 2008 on Spring Lake's Salem Avenuebeach for not wearing a top and refusing to cover her chest. She claimsthat it is discriminatory for women to have to cover themselves whilemen can bare their chests just about anywhere.
After she wasreleased from the Spring Lake jail, Feeley went shirtless down two localstreets, where 25 to 30 people gathered, according to a police report.She again was arrested.
In police reports, an alternate name forFeeley 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 partiesand who has been involved in two records, "including being the onlyfemale on the planet to catch a knife thrown by professional knifethrower The Great Throwdini on a full turn."
She also performs onstilts, throws knives and performs a whip routine "that will scare anddelight you," according to the website. However, it notes that "Phoenixplans on retiring from some of the more deadly arts by September 2013."
Feeleyreceived a settlement of $29,000 in New York City in 2007 after she wascharged with indecent exposure in 2005, according to the AssociatedPress.
In New Jersey, Feeley was convicted of being undressed inpublic, obstruction and disorderly conduct in 2009, but she appealed thecharges in state Superior Court in Freehold. Two were affirmed and oneof the appeals was granted, Pappas said. She was fined $816 but refusedto pay.
She was arrested Monday and booked at the county jail, and has been under constant supervision there while on a hunger strike.
WhenPappas asked Feeley if she intended to pay her fines, she said no. Heasked if financial circumstances prohibited her from paying the finesand offered a monthly payment arrangement. She scoffed.
"I have adirect appeal in to the U.S. Supreme Court about (these) criminalcharges that are discriminatory against my gender," she said, lateradding, "I refuse to pay the fines for an act that is legal for a manbut not legal for a woman."
Pappas suggested to Feeley that shefile a formal grievance about her treatment in jail, but Feeley told himshe had been denied access to a grievance form, a library, a lawyer anda phone call.
"None of my rights are being upheld while I'm in here. None of them," she said.
MonmouthCounty Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Cynthia Scott said in an email thatshe is prohibited from commenting on an inmate's health, but thatFeeley remained under constant watch. Such inmates are not housed in thejail's general population, she said.
"The correctional andmedical staff continue to take the necessary steps to ensure theinmate's health, safety and well-being, as they do with all inmates, andwill continue to do so for as long as she remains at the correctionalfacility," Scott wrote in a statement.
Instead of paying the $816in fines with money, Pappas said Feeley could instead pay with jailtime, 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 hassaid.
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.