Thursday, October 13, 2011

Why not bring criminal conspiracy charges against men in the Mummers prostitution case?

I'm clearly a bit cranky that the criminal burden of the Mummers prostitution party has fallen upon the female prostitutes involved. Here's a question for Philadelphia police and prosecutors: Why not bring criminal conspiracy charges against some of the Mummers' leaders?

Here's how the Inquirer describes the investigation:
The investigation into the club began almost two months ago, after police received tips that women were soliciting sex on the second floor of the building every second Tuesday of the month between 7 and 11 p.m., Blackburn said.

Lt. Charles Green of the citywide vice unit said an undercover officer gained access to one of the parties last month after wrangling an invitation from Crovetti. Inside, the officer saw women walking around wearing next to nothing, as well as about 50 men.

About 7:30 Tuesday night, two undercover officers made a repeat visit to the party. As the officers made their way around the building, they saw a man pulling his pants up near a naked woman in one room, and others engaging in sex acts in view of the bartenders and others. Meanwhile, Green said, 10 women approached the officers about paying for sex.

"It was just so out in the open, and so obvious what was going on," Green said.

If it was so obvious what was going on—not just in that moment, but to the point that it sparked a two-month investigation—then it was probably obvious to the folks who run the Mummers' Downtowners Fancy Brigade clubhouse. They—in all likelihood—knew what was going on and permitted the illegal activity to continue.

Seems like that fits the definition of a criminal conspiracy under Pennsylvania statutes:
A person is guilty of
conspiracy with another person or persons to commit a crime if
with the intent of promoting or facilitating its commission he:
(1) agrees with such other person or persons that they
or one or more of them will engage in conduct which
constitutes such crime or an attempt or solicitation to
commit such crime; or
(2) agrees to aid such other person or persons in the
planning or commission of such crime or of an attempt or
solicitation to commit such crime.
(b) Scope of conspiratorial relationship.--If a person
guilty of conspiracy, as defined by subsection (a) of this
section, knows that a person with whom he conspires to commit a
crime has conspired with another person or persons to commit the
same crime, he is guilty of conspiring with such other person or
persons, to commit such crime whether or not he knows their
In other words, you don't have to have had a conversation saying "let's do this criminal act together" in order to commit criminal conspiracy. It can be implicit and tacit—and the justice system can infer evidence of such a tacit conspiracy.

Well, hey: Pretty much the whole city has made the same inference here.

It's another question entirely whether prostitution should be illegal at all. (I'm of mixed opinions on the topic.) But right now it's not just illegal to offer sex for money; it's illegal to pay money for sex. We've only one side of that equation here—and women, again, are bearing the criminal burden of it. Philadelphia police and prosecutors can do better than that.

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