It Doesn’t Feel Like A Win

Nothing makes a splash for an ambitious prosecutor like announcing a huge initiative to rid the streets of evil people, and Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice is nothing if not ambitious.  When she announced that was going to after “johns,” the men who patronize prostitutes,  It was called “Operation Flush the Johns,” a nifty headline-grabbing name that was sure to put her loveliness in the public eye.

And there is was, 104 men arrested, and a huge chart with picture, suitable for framing.

Nassau Johns

See the small print at the bottom of the black box?  “All are presumed innocent until proven guilty.”  There are 104 pictures that prove that to be a lie.  But they made for a fabulous press conference for an ambitious prosecutor.  Her statement extolled how she did this to save womanhood.

“Sex workers are often vulnerable victims of traffickers and pimps, yet they often remain the prime targets in prostitution investigations, while the johns who fuel the exploitation are treated as mere witnesses,” Rice said in a statement released just before the news conference. “My office and the police department are turning the tables on the illogical and immoral nature of that equation.”

Saving the victims of traffickers and pimps is certainly a cause that no right-minded person can oppose. But what if this is a trope, promoted by the forces of Puritanism who oppose sex work because it offends their squeamish ethic?  What if sex workers choose sex work because that’s what they prefer to do with themselves, their bodies, their lives?  It couldn’t be possible?

My friend, Maggie McNeil at the Honest Courtesan, would disagree.  I could explain, but she does it so much better.

But our protestant ethics condemns the sale of sex and vilifies those engaged in it, regardless of whether it fits within the paradigm of loose, evil women or victims of evil sex trafficking.  While the former was long in fashion, gender politics has made the latter a more appealing justification, and it gave Kathleen Rice the perfect opportunity to play to the ignorance of the crowds and score points all along the spectrum. Here she was, cleaning the sex trade, saving women and putting the onus on the evil men who enable this nightmare to succeed.

But the glory of the press conference doesn’t always play out when the klieg lights are turned off.  As Newsday reports, it wasn’t the johns, but Rice’s prosecutions, getting flushed.

A judge has tossed the case against a Manhasset restaurateur charged with patronizing a prostitute, the fifth such dismissal in the prosecution of 104 men arrested earlier this year in a Nassau sting operation dubbed “Flush the Johns.”

So far, there have been six guilty pleas and five dismissals. Not a very good average, given that Rice gets to cherry pick her prosecutions. In fact, it’s a total disaster.  But don’t fret if you think these accused johns got away too easy.

The restaurateur was not only publicly humiliated by the arrest, the detention, his face on Rice’s poster, the cost of hiring a lawyer and appearing in court over and over, until his case was finally dismissed. His wife is divorcing him as well. While it’s unclear what this means in terms of his home life and family, this is rarely a good thing.  Most people, including those who cling dearly to their Puritanism, don’t think breaking up families is an appropriate goal of the legal system.  As always, you can beat the rap but you can’t beat the ride.

But Rice got her mileage out of the ride.

The use of public shaming is nothing new in Nassau County, as it makes for such a great hit with the media.  It’s funny how Rice didn’t hold a press conference to announce how her latest shaming opportunity was a fiasco.  But as long as there is that lie in small print at the bottom, the one where it says the people whose pictures are smeared in the media to show how Kathleen Rice is saving the world, she gets all the benefits of public adoration with none of the responsibility for destroying the lives of the innocent.

And really, who cares that the innocent are harmed as long as it makes for a good graphic?  After all, the restaurateur and the four others won their cases. Isn’t that the way the legal system is supposed to work, even if after their lives were destroyed it doesn’t quite feel like a win?

16 comments on “It Doesn’t Feel Like A Win

  1. Appellate Squawk

    “The violence of a john does not diminish the role of the state in making a prostitute more vulnerable to that violence.”
    — Canada (Attorney General) v. Bedford
    (Supreme Court of Canada’s unanimous decision issued last Friday striking down anti-prostitute laws).

  2. KP

    I assume those found innocent can sue the Police and that ho’s ass for defamation of character.

    ..or would publishing her photo in a poster of a hundred prostitutes with the tiny byline “innocent until proven guilty” be quite acceptable in America?

    1. SHG Post author

      And you would assume wrong. It’s possible there is a malicious prosecution claim, provided there was no probable cause for the arrest, but that’s about it. There isn’t a thing he can do about his photo being published per se. Sucks, and why publishing arrest photos of presumptively innocent people like this are wrong and outrageous.

      1. Ken Bellone

        Ms. Rice is nothing, if not ambitious. Going after the low hanging fruit always grabs some much desired publicity. Drunks and johns always make for good cannon fodder. The fact that they may be innocent is irrelevant, and folks who look at the “mug shot” section won’t find a “previously pictured, but charges dismissed/defendant acquitted section”. Marriages, jobs and lives destroyed mean little in her quest for justice.

        1. SHG Post author

          There’s no play in failing for a prosecutor. At least Newsday carried the story, given that they’re happy enough to make a big headline out of Rice’s arrest dog and pony show.

  3. John Barleycorn

    WTF!? No imbedded photo of Kathleen? Shame on you for forcing all of us Johns to visit Pimp Momma Arianna’s site to inspect the goods.

    FYI, you do know in the Back Pages escort section their is a kink specialist that goes by Debbie The Devient Prosecutor. Debbie has a striking resemblance to Kathleen by the way.

    If I had an extra eight hundred, I think I would be all over verifying that coincidence before commenting.

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  5. Joe

    I’m interested to know why so many of these are getting dismissed. I read through the article, but can’t find anything other than a judge saying that there was insufficient evidence to proceed. If that’s it, then these have to be the worst stings in history. I’ve prosecuted prostitution sting cases before, and it was like shooting fish in a barrel – usually we had video and audio of the defendant making a sex for money deal. Apparently that didn’t happen in these 104 cases. Leaving aside the issue of whether prostitution should be illegal, if there’s no evidence, other than the undercover officer’s word (and the somewhat strange notion that a guy would be randomly meeting someone in a hotel room to use the bathroom), then what the hell were the cops doing?

    1. SHG Post author

      I wondered the same thing since these sorts of prosecutions (as you said) are usually shooting fish in a barrel. I don’t have the answer either, but this may be an example of the most incompetent sting ever.

  6. Charlesmorrison

    Don’t worry, I’m sure professor Franks is drafting a model law right now that will prohibit such a despicable photo array in the future. Sex topic + photo + no consent = illegal.

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  8. Dominick Mezzapesa

    See, this is where people don’t use their brains when they read articles like this

    Answer me this. “Why is The restaurateur wife divorcing him?

    Pretty simple he did it, and while a slick lawyer got him off he did do it none-the-less and most likely this is not his first time. I assume his wife forgot about the “Innocent till proven guilty” as well?

    I know one thing, if I told my family I did not do it, they would believe me.

    I feel sad that readers are duped by sloppy reporters like this one, but ultimately I feel even more sad that someone actually put this online.

    I lkove the fact that time and time again sloppy reporters take one instance out of someones life and scream about “Injustice” but never delve into the person’s history. Am I supposed to feel sorry for a person that had a multiple rendezvous with prostitutes because the one time he got caught he gets off on a technicality?

    When the restaurateur wife seeks divorce after this incident that is all I need to know.

    1. SHG Post author

      Normally, comments that make people stupider are dumped in the trash, but yours is so mind-numblingly stupid that I posted it for the lulz. How you get out of bed in the morning without hurting yourself is a mystery.

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