Scranton, Pa

Woman Arrested in Prostitution Sting Withdraws Guilty Plea

Posted: July 18, 2023

On June 20, 2023, a woman arrested during a 2021 prostitution sting for several charges, including receiving stolen property, carrying a firearm without a license, and prostitution withdrew her guilty plea. During a sentencing hearing in front of the Honorable Judge Kelley Streib in Butler County Common Pleas Court, the woman withdrew her guilty plea to a felony charge of receiving stolen property. As part of entering this plea, her other charges were to be dismissed and she would have been sentenced to serve 9 to 23 months in jail. The woman allegedly withdrew the plea because she did not want a felony conviction and she was not involved with the gun at issue in the case.

The woman was arrested along with a co-defendant when she was solicited for sex by an undercover police officer. After meeting the woman and the co-defendant at a predetermined meeting point, the officer placed both under arrest. Police allegedly found a loaded handgun in a vehicle with the two defendants. Both were charged with conspiracy to receive stolen property, receiving stolen property, carrying a firearm without a license, criminal use of a communication facility, possessing instruments of crime with intent, and multiple prostitution charges. The co-defendant pled guilty to carrying a firearm without a license and promoting prostitution in July 2022 and was sentenced to serve 9 to 36 months in prison.

The CSE Institute commends Judge Streib for allowing someone charged with prostitution to withdraw their guilty plea and retain a private attorney. Oftentimes, survivors are willing to accept guilty pleas or rush through court proceedings to avoid further distress. Allowing someone charged with prostitution to withdraw their guilty plea is a trauma-informed decision because it recognizes the exploitation that leads people to enter systems of prostitution.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration defines a trauma-informed courtroom as one in which “judges recognize the people appearing before them have personally experienced acts of violence or other traumatic life events, and are also cognizant of the stress of the courtroom environment impact on trauma survivors”. For a trauma-informed court to be established and maintained, authority must be based on trust. Implementing the core values of trauma-informed care in the courtroom allows victims the possibility to overcome past trauma and prevent re-traumatization from occurring.

The CSE Institute is disappointed that the Cranberry Township Police arrested the woman after what appears to be a brief investigation designed to criminalize persons in prostitution. We would encourage additional investigation into this case to determine whether or not the co-conspirator is a trafficker given that he pled guilty to promoting prostitution which is a pimping charge. Although the CSE Institute commends the Cranberry Township Police Police Department for attempting to reduce commercial sexual exploitation, law enforcement must understand that targeting sex buyers and traffickers, rather than persons in prostitution, is essential to achieving this goal.

The CSE Institute advocates for the Equality Model, a policy that seeks to reduce the demand for commercial sex by criminalizing those who buy sex rather than those who are bought and sold. The Equality Model consists of four elements: (1) decriminalization of the person in prostitution, (2) criminalization of sex buyers and a commitment to treat buying sex as a serious crime, (3) a public education campaign about the inherent harms of prostitution, and (4) robust, funded exit services for people in prostitution. Criminalizing persons in prostitution does nothing to target sex buyers or traffickers nor does it extinguish the demand for commercial sex.

The CSE Institute will continue to provide updates on this matter as they become available.

All views expressed herein are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law or of Villanova University.

Category: News

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