Category Archives: Prostitution

Class Action Lawsuit

Judge Expedites Sex Offender Class-Action Lawsuit 

Despite denying an offender’s petition for immediate release, U.S. District Judge Donavan Frank noted that he planned to expedite a class-action challenge of the current sex offender program’s constitutionality.

Frank has been a staunch critic of Minnesota’s current sex offender program for some time. Back in March he issued a 75-page ruling chastising the current system and calling for reform. In his ruling, Frank said the current program had “grave deficiencies” and inmates were left in a purgatory-style state with “no sex-offender-specific treatment whatsoever is provided in Phase I,” which is concerning because “64 percent of Minnesota Sex Offender patients were in Phase I.”

Frank’s opinion of the system hasn’t changed much over the last five months. The class-action suit by the inmates alleges that they are locked up indefinitely with no realistic hope for release, and the statistics show that they may have a point. Of the nearly 700 people who have finished their prison terms and have been transferred to high security sex offender facilities, only one inmate has been given conditional release from the program since 1994.

Frank told attorneys for both sides to come to next Thursday’s pretrial conference with trial dates in mind.

Release Denied

Although Frank said he would expedite the class action lawsuit, he stopped short of granting an inmate’s petition for immediate release. However, that doesn’t mean Frank believes the system has treated the inmate justly.

According to court documents, the inmate, identified as E.T., has been in the program for over a decade for crimes he committed between the ages of 10 and 14. E.T. is now 24 years old, and he said he feels lost in the current system. An expert testified that the inmate never should have been placed in the program, he doesn’t need sex offender treatment, and he doesn’t pose a risk to the public. Frank stopped short of granting immediate release, but upon hearing the testimony he noted that, if not for the class-action lawsuit, E.T. “would likely have languished for years in the prison-like environment of (the state sex offender program at Moose Lake) without any realistic hope of gaining his freedom.”

Prosecutors of the class-action suit expect the trial to begin in September or early October.

Related source: Pioneer Press

How To Avoid Prostitution Stings

Avoid Prostitution stingAs technology continues to make it easier for people to connect with one another, it’s no surprise that we’ve seen an uptick in the number of people arrested to soliciting a prostitute in Minnesota. It seems like every month we read a story in the Star-Tribune about another string that resulted in a number of solicitation arrests. We’ve defended plenty of solicitation cases for both the buyer and seller, and we’ve compiled some tips to help you avoid prostitution stings.

1. Don’t Tempt Yourself – Obviously the easiest way to avoid an arrest for solicitation is to avoid purchasing the services altogether, but paying for services only happens after you’ve looked for a provider. Similarly, if you’re on a diet, the easiest way to avoid eating donuts is to stay out of the bakery. Same idea here. If you’re worried about getting picked up for solicitation, don’t peruse listings on Craigslist or Backpage.com. Doing so will only pique your interest, so try not to tempt yourself.

2. Avoid Recorded Conversations – You can try to be sneaky by speaking in “code” all you want, but it won’t help your case if the prosecutor can hand the judge pages and pages or text messages that show you negotiating a price for a “trick” or “full service.” While the burden of proof lies with the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were purchasing sex, not an oil change, recorded messages only make it more difficult to fight your case. Be smart about what you text and email.

3. Don’t Go On BackPage.com – This point is similar to the first idea, but it’s clear that a large amount of law enforcement agencies in Minnesota use BackPage.com to lure in potential solicitors. A simple Google search of the word BackPage turns up two stories about prostitution arrests and one story of murder on the front page. If you’re dead set on purchasing services or companionship, it’s a wise decision to go through a more trusted source like a friend who has done something similar in the past. Again, as a disclaimer, we advise against tempting yourself by seeking more information.

4. Talk To An Attorney – This tip is more for individuals who have been arrested for solicitation. Finding out the person you were talking to was actually working with the cops can be surprising, but once the police get involved, invoke your right to remain silent. As we said before, the burden of proof lies with the police, so willingly opening up about the encounter will only give them more evidence in their case against you. Politely inform the police that you will not be answering any of their questions until you speak to an attorney. Once your lawyer learns the details of the case, they can advise you what to do from there.

Police Arrest 11 In Super Bowl Sex Ring

ProstituteAuthorities in New York arrested 11 individuals Thursday in a prostitution sting in hopes of preventing further criminal activity with the large influx of out-of-town individuals arriving for the Super Bowl.

According to the police report, the operation advertised “party packs” on public access cable television. Police uncovered that party packs often included cocaine and sexual favors, so they decided to conduct a large raid Thursday morning in hopes of disrupting any parties that were planned to take place Super Bowl weekend.

Police were able to detain 11 suspects during their initial sweep, including to purported ringleader. Police brought charges against seven other individuals who have yet to be found.

New York Attorney General Eric Schniederman said investigators had found more than $3 million in credit card charges on a electronic reader that had been seized during the raid, noting that the figure may only be the tip of the iceberg.

“Keep in mind that most johns pay cash,” Schneiderman said. “So that’s a staggering number for an enterprise like this.”

Not Surprising

Although they likely thought the Super Bowl would be a big money making opportunity for the sex ring, they shouldn’t be too surprised they got caught. Just this month, New Jersey announced that it planned to crack down on sex trafficking in the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl. Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said officials instituted a coordinated effort among precincts to prevent the illicit behavior from taking place.

“We’ve enlisted, basically, every service provider that people coming to the Super Bowl are going to run into,” Hoffman said. “There are a lot of eyes that are going to be on their activities and going to be on spotting potential victims of this crime.”

Authorities had gathered evidence for 11 months before conducting the raid. Documents show that police have credit card records, wiretapped recordings talking about transactions and clients, and text messages that all point to an underground drug and sex ring. The group was even bold stupid enough to advertise their activities on late night television, which featured ads for the “Asian Wave” escort service that was “always a treat, and always fast to your door.”

Schneiderman said his team didn’t have a lot of information on the sex workers involved in the ring, but he believes many of them were victims. He added that the exploited victims would not be charged with crimes.

Related source: The Associated Press, ESPN

Are Craigslist and Backpage Massages Legal?

Backpage Categories Under Review, by edkohler on Flicker.People are always leery to throw around the word “prostitution” when it comes to soliciting adult services. Many ads on Craigslist and Backpage actually constitute the act of prostitution even though they are simply advertising for sensual or erotic massages. Below, we take a look at the legality of some of the advertisements for companionship on Craigslist and Backpage.

Backpage Blues

We’ll start with Backpage. We’ve blogged time and time again about how frequently cops in Minnesota turn to Backpage for sting operations. A quick Google search of “Backpage sting Minnesota” turns up results for operations in Burnsville, Hopkins, Fridley, Hastings and Coon Rapids.

Under their “Adult” section, Backpage lists numerous categories, including:

  • Escorts
  • Body Rubs
  • Strippers & Strip Clubs
  • Dom & Fetish
  • Phone & Websites
  • Adult Jobs

Regardless of which category you choose, odds are you’ll find a list of entertainers willing to do just that a specific fee. The area we’ll focus on today is erotic massages under the body rub category, because many people believe offering or receiving an erotic massage is legal. Oftentimes more than just a massage is implied, but for obvious reasons, nothing is said directly. You can call it “erotic massage” all you want, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t prostitution.

See, in Minnesota, prostitution is defined as hiring or being hired to engage in sexual penetration or sexual contact. This means you are committing prostitution even if no penetration occurs. Even those people who simply want to enjoy or offer a topless massage need to be careful the encounter doesn’t become one of prostitution.

Defining Sexual Contact

Sexual contact can be a rather ambiguous term, so the state of Minnesota took it upon themselves to define the phrase. Sexual contact occurs when there is:

  • Intentional touching by an individual of a prostitute or erotic masseuse’s intimate parts; or
  • Intentional touching by a prostitute or erotic masseuse of an individual’s private parts.

The definition goes a little bit further, saying sexual contact has been committed if it can be reasonably construed that the touching was done for the purpose of satisfying a sexual impulse.

Cops on Craigslist

Craigslist is not as blatantly obvious in offering adult services, mainly because the site removed it’s “Adult” section in 2010 after many complaints and allegations that they were operating, at least partially, like a pimp by creating a middleman through which clients and “entertainers” could discuss prices and locations.

Now, Craigslist allows certain adult advertisements to be listed under the “Personals” section. Craigslist says they will remove any posts the violate state and federal laws, but if you peruse the site you’ll find numerous advertisements similar to those on Backpage. And just like Backpage, cops use Craigslist to bait individuals into purchasing illegal services.

Despite others claiming to know a way around the system, there’s no perfect guide to figuring out whether or not the person you’re talking to through Craigslist or Backpage is a cop. You may have true intentions when you say you’re simply looking for companionship or a massage, but prosecutors aren’t likely to see it that way if the situation develops into something more intimate.

New Minnesota Laws Go Into Effect Today

CC image Wikipedia.orgWhile the legalization of gay marriage in Minnesota may grab the top headline, there are plenty of other newsworthy laws that go into effect today. There are four main changes that affect criminal penalties, and we’ll detail them all below.

Prostitution Consequences

Soliciting or engaging in prostitution can lead to a fine and/or jail time, but anyone caught in the act after August 1 may feel a larger dent in their wallet.

The new law allows authorities to confiscate any cash that was used or intended to be used for the solicitation of sex. This law applies to patrons, prostitutes, and pimps.

The seized funds will be split among local and state law enforcement agencies. A portion of the confiscated cash will be set aside to help sexually abused victims.

Cracking Down on Prank 911 Calls

Any person who intentionally dials 911 without a real emergency will be subject to harsher penalties under the new Minnesota law.

The law was put in place to penalize those who report a fake emergency in order to draw authorities to or away from a certain area. A caller will be charged with a misdemeanor for their first offense, and a gross misdemeanor for subsequent offenses. If a person is hurt because authorities are rushing to location, or a person with a real emergency cannot receive the help they need because of the prank call, the caller could face felony charges.

The goal of the law is to reduce a trend known as “swatting”, where an individual phones in a bogus report in order to have authorities, sometimes even the SWAT team, arrive at a certain location.

Arsonists Will Feel the Burn

Individuals who intentionally set wildfires in Minnesota after August 1 will be hit with tougher penalties.

A person will face a felony charge if they start a fire that:

  • Does damage to five or more buildings; or
  • Poses a threat to five or more buildings; or
  • Burns 500 acres of land; or
  • Does “significant” crop damage.

The felony charge carries possible penalties of up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $15,000.

The potential penalties will be more severe if the damage escalates to involve over 100 buildings or residences, or if someone is hurt by the blaze. Restitution costs will also increase under the new statute.

Transit Driver Assault Penalties Increase

Assaulting a bus or light rail driver will carry heavier consequences under the new statute. The penalties were increased because these types of crimes can put passengers in danger, in the event that the assault causes the driver to lose control of the vehicle.

Any person that assaults or spits on/at a transit driver will be hit with a gross misdemeanor.

Legislators made the change after hearing numerous stories from drivers about their encounters with harassment on a bus or light rail.

Related source: KSTP

Nationwide Sex Trafficking Sweep Saves 105 Children

CC image Wikipedia.orgA nationwide sex trafficking sting operation resulted in the recovery of 105 juveniles and the arrest of over 150 adults during the three-day crackdown.

The FBI partnered with over 230 local, state and federal government agencies to aid in the crackdown against sex trafficking and sexual exploitation of children. Ron Hasko, assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division, said the operation was done to rescue the victims and create awareness about sex trafficking.

“Child prostitution remains a persistent threat to children across America,” said Hasko. “This operation serves as a reminder that these abhorrent crimes can happen anywhere.”

Sex trafficking is a particularly heinous crime that attacks the vulnerability of the victim. Depending on the age of the victim, and if there were any aggravating factors, a person found guilty of felony sex trafficking could face up to 25 years in prison and a fine of up to $60,000.

Anywhere and Everywhere

On the local front, FBI officials in Minnesota made four arrests in connection with the sex trafficking sting. St. Paul police arrested two men at a St. Paul residence on suspicion of felony sex trafficking, while authorities in Minneapolis and Anoka County arrested a pair of 25-year-olds for their role in separate sex trafficking crimes. The operation did not turn up any juveniles in Minnesota, but law enforcement officials said they referred a “handful of women” to local advocacy groups and shelters.

Authorities also made several arrests in other areas across the country, including:

  • In Wisconsin, where 10 children were rescued and 100 suspects were arrested across the state in and around the Milwaukee, Madison, Wisconsin Dells and Fox Valley areas.
  • In San Francisco, where federal agents uncovered the most active child sex trafficking operation. Agents rescued 12 juveniles and busted 17 pimps in San Francisco.
  • In Detroit, the second most active city. 10 children were rescued and 18 pimps were taken into custody.
  • In New Orleans, where six children were rescued and six pimps were busted.

For their sting operation, authorities limited their investigation to areas of high traffic or where sex trafficking has commonly been seen in the past. These areas include truck stops, casinos, certain street corners, and websites such as Backpage.com, which has been notorious for its adult services section.

Related sources: Pioneer Press, CS Monitor

Minneapolis Cheerleader Charged With Prostituting Cognitively Disabled Classmate

Backpage Categories Under Review, by edkohler on Flicker.A high school cheerleader in Minneapolis faces felony charges of sex trafficking and promoting prostitution after she allegedly prostituted a cognitively disabled classmate as a means of making money.

Montia Marie Parker, 18, of Maple Grove, is scheduled to appear in court on June 12 in connection with her involvement in a scheme that involved forcing a 16-year-old student to preform sexual favors in exchange for cash.

Parker was a senior at Hopkins High School when the incident took place.  According to police, Parker set up a Backpage.com ad featuring pictures of her 16-year-old cheerleading teammate.  Backpage.com is notorious for prostitution busts, yet Parker posted the ad offering sexual favors in exchange for money.

Eventually someone responded to the ad, and Parker drove the victim to an apartment complex to meet with the man.  The victim preformed oral sex on the man in exchange for $60, which Parker deposited into her own bank account.

More Lies

In order to manage inquiries into the ad, Parker listed her phone number so she could keep track of potential clients. According to the complaint, Parker received a call from a man who wanted to pay the 16-year-old for sex.  The girls had school that day, so Parker reportedly called the school and pretended she was the victim’s mother in order to excuse her from class.  The pair then drove to the man’s house, but the victim did not want to have sex.  She offered to preform oral sex on the man, but he refused, so Parker and the teen left.

The victim’s mother checked her daughter’s text messages after noticing changes in her behavior and hearing about unexcused absences from school.  She uncovered numerous text messages suggesting some illegal activities were taking place.

“You’ll be fine — I didn’t drive up here for nothing, and eventually you will need to have sex,” Parker told the girl, according to the police report.

The FBI became aware of the alleged prostitution in March, and they met with the mother and victim.  The mother told authorities that her daughter has an assigned social worker at school because she is cognitively disabled.

Parker is free on a $50,000 bond until her initial appearance on June 12.

Potential Sentence

Parker faces some stiff penalties if found guilty on the felony level.  Sex trafficking has two definitions under Minnesota law.  A person is guilty of sex-trafficking if they:

  • Receive, recruit, entice, harbor, provide, or obtain by any means an individual to aid in the prostitution of an individual; or
  • Receive profit or anything of value and know or have reason to know it is derived from sex trafficking.

According to the criminal complaint, Parker has already admitted to creating the Backpage ad for the 16-year-old.  She also stated that the ad had received “a lot of calls” while it was listed.

Minnesota law states that sex trafficking crimes are punishable by a maximum of 15 years for an adult victim, but Parker faces an increased penalty because the victim was 16.  In cases where the victim is under the age of 18, a person found guilty of sex trafficking can be punished by up to 20 years in prison and/or fines up to $50,000.

Related source:  Fox News

Five Charged in Connection with Ramsey County Sex-Trafficking Ring

CC Image Backpage Categories Under Review, by edkohler on Flickr.Four members of a St. Paul family have been charged with a variety of felony charges after it was uncovered that they have been running a sex-trafficking ring for almost two years.

During those two years, two brothers and their uncles ran what Ramsey County Attorney John Choi called “an evil conspiracy” that severely impacted the lives of the alleged victims.  The perpetrators allegedly used the controversial website Backpage.com to advertise the services.  Although more details are expected to be made public, at least one of the victims was a 15-year old girl.

Otis D. Washington, 29, Antonio D. Washington-Davis, 27, and their uncles Calvin R, Washington, 49, and Robert J. Washington, 56, were charged with multiple sex trafficking crimes in connection with their involvement in the ring.  A female accomplice, Elizabeth Ann Alexander, 25, was also charged for her involvement.

When announcing the arrests, Choi said the defendants were motivated by greed.

“All of the defendants are a part of an evil conspiracy to enslave women and girls for their own financial gain,” said Choi.  “The defendants have caused unimaginable horror and harm to the victims as well as to our community over a considerable period of time.”

Exposing the ring is a step in the right direction, and it highlights how important it is that we continue to fight against sexual abuse.  In a previous post, we noted that April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and a new bill called the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Youth bill is making its way through Minnesota legislation.

The bill asks for $14 million to provide shelters, services and treatment for victims of sexual assault.  Many proponents of the bill say it is a response to the rising amount of sex-trafficking taking place across the state.

The bill is running under the campaign “MN Girls Are Not For Sale”, and Choi offered a similar, localized sentiment when announcing the latest arrests.

“Women and girls are not for sale in Ramsey County,” said Choi.

Related source:  Star Tribune

Mom Faces Jail Time after Hiring Strippers for Son’s 16th Birthday Party

A New York mother has been charged with endangering the welfare of a child after she allegedly hired two strippers to dance at her 16-year-old son’s birthday party.

Judy Viger, 33, faces the possibility of jail time after police filed five charges of endangering the welfare of a child against her in connection with her son’s birthday party at a local bowling alley.

The party took place at Spare Time Bowling Alley back in November, but steamy pictures emerged on Facebook this month which prompted a police investigation.  Authorities got involved after a parent alerted officials of the racy pictures, and the investigation revealed that five of the attendees were younger than 17, and one individual was as young as 13.

According to the police report, Viger is accused of “organizing, managing, and paying” for the party where the two strippers engaged in “personal and intimate dances for some party attendees.”

Criminal Defense attorney Geoffery Saltzstein explains what would happen of the incident had taken place in Minnesota.

“The State of Minnesota specifically prohibits this, as §617.294 of the Minnesota Criminal Code states that it is a crime for someone to “knowingly admit a minor… to a place of public accommodation where there is exhibited a… dance… presented before an audience which, in whole or in part, depicts nudity,” said Saltzstein.  “Unfortunately for mom, although I’m sure the boys in the group were extremely amused, the legislature of most states has decided that this type of entertainment shall be reserved for those who are over the age of 18.”

Charges have not been brought against the entertainers or the bowling alley.  When asked about the incident, Spare Time Bowling alley released the following statement.

“Spare Time Bowling Center can confirm that a private party did take place on November 3rd, 2012. We neither arranged for (nor paid for) the entertainment that was provided at the party. Spare Time has been cooperating fully with the investigation and will continue to do so.”

The entertainers, who are employed by Tops in Bottoms, said they didn’t know the attendees were underage and they think the matter is being “blown out of proportion.”

Viger did not want to comment on the issue, but she posted a message to her Facebook page that said her family is currently going through a “difficult time.”  She is scheduled to appear in court March 7.

Related source:  ABC News

Twin Cities Roundup: Legal News from the Past Week

Threats Shut Down School

Chaska High School cancelled classes Tuesday after violent threats were made by an individual.

The threats were made early Tuesday morning.  Classes were cancelled for the 1,250 students who attend the high school while the police investigated the threats.  The school went into its “lockdown” procedure for the students who were already at school, while buses diverted teens to a safe location once they were made aware of the situation.

A search of the school grounds and parking lot did not find anything suspicious, but the school took precautions to avoid “copycat things”, in reference to the school shooting in Connecticut last month that claimed the lives of 26 students and staff.

On Wednesday, the Chaska Police Department announced that they had arrested a juvenile male in connection with the threats.  Authorities concluded that he acted alone.

Classes resumed on Wednesday.

Hotel Employees Trained on Sex-Trafficking Signs

Counties in the Twin Cities have partnered with the Minnesota Lodging Association to train employees to spot possible sex-trafficking crimes.

Sex-trafficking crimes have become more prevalent in the United States in recent years, and city officials believe educating hotel employees on the warning signs can help stop future crimes.

“If you see something, say something,” said Dan McElroy, president of the trade group Hospitality Minnesota.  “The hotel management then can contact investigators.”

The conference said some of the signs employees should look for include young females who look frightened or disheveled, men visiting for a short time, or money exchanging hands in the lobby or parking lot.

Last year, there were 19 arrests in Minneapolis for juvenile sex traffic.  The city hopes the increased education will prevent more juvenile sex crimes in 2013.

“We are here to stop you,” said City Council Member Elizabeth Glidden.

Coon Rapids Prostitution Sting Yields Five Arrests

Coon Rapids conducted a prostitution sting Wednesday in hopes of nabbing “johns” seeking sex in the northern suburb.

The operation was successful, as five men were arrested and cited with gross misdemeanors, said Captain John Hattstrom.

“We are going to continue these kinds of efforts to push prostitution out of our hotels and our city and the kinds of crimes that come with them,” Hattstrom said.

Hattstrom said the city is intent on preventing prostitution crimes because of the related illegal activities that tend to accompany sex crimes.  Violent crimes like assaults and robberies have been linked with sex crimes, and city officials said increased drug use is also common.

Captain Hattstrom said the city has seen a rise in sex crimes due in large part to online outlets that allow individuals to connect for escort services.  Sites like Craigslist and Backpage.com aid in the proliferation of sex crimes, but they also make it easier for law enforcement to track.

“Most suburbs haven’t had to deal with this in many years, but (Backpage.com) makes it so easy for it to occur. … There are thousands (of posts) every day.  It’s endless,” Hattstrom said.

Coon Rapids had a female officer post a prostitution ad on Backpage.com in order to stage Wednesday’s operation.  The men who met the officer at the agreed location were arrested and cited.

Wednesday’s sting was the second such operation conducted by the city in three months.  The Coon Rapids Police Department ran its first sting in November.

Related sources: TwinCities.com, StarTribune.com