Grand Traverse Prostitution Sting More Slap, Less Tickle

Northern Michigan law enforcement officers recently made a big deal about the fact that they conducted a prostitution sting and busted a bunch of Johns for prostitution. I supported this plan. The Johns rarely get busted. So often it’s only the women who are ever held accountable for prostitution, and they’re arguably the victims.

The cases moved to the 86th district court. There, a large number of them were deferred.

What’s a deferral in Michigan criminal law? It’s where you plead guilty, but your case gets thrown out after a few months of good behavior. If it sounds like it’s not much of a penalty, it’s not much of a penalty. You end up without being convicted of any crime by the end of it.

So why did law enforcement go through all of that effort to give the Johns such light treatment? Is the disposition of these cases because of an evidentiary error that we’re not aware of? Or is it because this is what we still think of the victims of prostitution in this day and age?

Here are some of the case dispositions:

See how they’re all pleaded down to one count, and then scheduled for dismissal with a delayed status? A delay is basically like probation, but then if you get through it with good behavior, your case gets dismissed. For the Johns, it’ll be like the whole thing never happened to save for that mugshot online.

Is this justice? Is this the price of a young woman today? Was it a good use of law enforcement after all?

Here’s one case that’s set for a hearing on the issue of police entrapment.

Is a prostitution sting police entrapment?

Entrapment requires (1) government inducement of crime, and (2) no defendant predisposition to commit the crime anyways. United States v. Orisnord, 483 F.3d 1169, 1178 (11th Cir.2007).

Entrapment is a jury question, and it depends on the facts of the situation. Court outcomes in similar cases¬†throughout the United States go both ways. Some courts say it’s entrapment. There’s this Michigan Court of Appeals case, but that’s a different situation – in that case, it was the John that initiated everything. Here’s another Michigan case, but it’s also not on point.

It’s an interesting question that’s very fact dependent. Were there other people advertising for prostitution online at the same time? How can the government show that these men were predisposed to be wanting prostitution if the police hadn’t gotten involved? Even prosecutor Bob Cooney admitted that only some of the men admitted to having tried to solicit a prostitute before. Entrapment is a very fact-dependent question and I can’t find a clear answer in current, Michigan law. Hmmm.

Is it wrong to do a press release on arrests when the ultimate outcome was that many of the Johns did not receive convictions? It was Bob Cooney’s prosecutor’s office that authorized these plea bargains. Law enforcement all congratulated themselves for what ended up not amounting to much. Why didn’t the police, or Cooney, issue a press release informing the public that the ultimate disposition of these cases is nothing?

What do you think?

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