On July 29th, 2021, Luzerne County Judge Joseph F. Sklarosky Jr., granted former Pennsylvania Bar Association President, David Schwager’s, motion to enter into the accelerated rehabilitative disposition (ARD) program. Schwager appeared before Judge Sklarosky for a dispositional hearing, stemming from a third-degree misdemeanor charge of patronizing a prostitute in April.
In the CSE Institute’s May newsletter, we discussed Schwager’s arrest and how his case demonstrates the power imbalance between women who sell sex and the men who buy it from them. Allegedly, Schwager purchased sex in late December 2019 by responding to an online advertisement. He claims that the incident was filmed by the woman from whom he purchased sex, and that she later used this film to allegedly extort him. He reported his conduct to law enforcement, who then arrested the woman and over a year later, and charged Schwager. He subsequently resigned from his position as 2020-2021 Pennsylvania Bar Association President.
Schwager’s admittance into the ARD program only perpetuates this long-standing narrative that women who sell sex are criminals, while men who purchase sex deserve forgiveness and rehabilitation. Schwager is required to enroll in the program for 1 year and complete 30 hours of community service. The ARD program allows first time offenders to enter a treatment program and eventually have their charges expunged upon completion. As a result of the ARD program, the recidivist penalty that accompanies a § 5902(e) conviction is not triggered. Typically, the degree of the misdemeanor increases only upon conviction for the crime charged. However, because charges are expunged through the ARD program, there is no conviction to trigger the recidivist penalty. It is not uncommon for those charged with patronizing a prostitute to receive accelerated rehabilitative disposition instead of a conviction.
The CSE Institute encourages those in the criminal justice system to treat sex buying as a serious crime rooted in gender based violence. Allowing Schwager to enter the ARD program, rather than face justified consequences for his actions, does not acknowledge the inherent harms that stem from purchasing sex. Instead, a man, who occupied a position of power and abused it, received a slap on the wrist for a crime he freely chose to commit. It is critical that those who exploit vulnerable individuals are held accountable in order to decrease the number of people being exploited in the sex trade.