Activist who exposed breast outside Virginia Capitol at first ordered held without bond

An activist who exposed her breast outside the Virginia state Capitol to express support for the Equal Rights Amendment was ordered held without bond until her March 21 court date before the judge later reversed his decision.

Michelle Renay Sutherland, 45, was arrested on an indecent exposure charge on Monday, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Richmond Judge Lawrence B. Cann III on Tuesday ordered Sutherland to remain in jail without bond, a move her supporters said was unusual for a misdemeanor charge.

Cann later reversed the decision on Thursday, and ordered Sutherland released from jail on a personal recognizance bond, and said she will have to pay $1,500 if she does not show up for her court date, according to reports.


Sutherland, a Brooklyn artist who also goes by the name Sister Leona, joined members of activist group Equal Means Equal on Monday to recreate the Virginia state seal.

The performance art was intended as a message to Republican lawmakers who are trying to stop a measure to ratify the ERA from getting a vote in the state House. If passed, the measure could officially add the amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The state Senate voted to pass the amendment, but a GOP-led House committee voted it down. Democratic lawmakers are now seeking to bring it to a full floor vote before the end of the legislative session.

A Virginia magistrate set Sutherland’s secured bail at $700 on Monday, according to the Times-Dispatch, but during an arraignment the following day, the judge ordered Sutherland to be held without bond until her court date.

—Updated at 3:08 p.m.