Thursday, November 13, 2008

Newsweek Opinion: Prosecuting Johns

NEWSWEEK OPINION - Former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer resigned in March 2008 after it was discovered that he had used women in prostitution, a violation of New York's comprehensive anti-trafficking law. Last week, we learned that the former prosecutor will not be prosecuted for breaking the law. (Click here for reader response on this story.)

Mr. Spitzer feels that he has paid for his "sins," as he put it. His description of prostitution as sinful carefully positions the buying of a woman for sexual use within the realm of tawdry scandals rather than the harmful sexual exploitation that it actually is. Although Mr. Spitzer apologized to New Yorkers, his friend, lawyer Alan Dershowitz, has said the governor's use of prostitutes is "no big deal."

U.S. Attorney Michael J. Garcia's decision not to pursue criminal charges against Mr. Spitzer for buying women in prostitution is a stunning betrayal of the public trust. Citing precedent, Mr. Garcia indicated that the Department of Justice (DOJ) does not typically prosecute johns who buy women from pimps, except in cases of prostitution of children. ("In light of the policy of the Department of Justice with respect to prostitution offenses and the longstanding practice of this Office, as well as Mr. Spitzer's acceptance of responsibility for his conduct, we have concluded that the public interest would not be further advanced by filing criminal charges in this matter," he said in a statement.) The DOJ also chose not to charge Mr. Spitzer for transporting a woman across state lines for the purpose of prostitution—a violation of the Mann Act. Congress might be interested to learn that its laws are being effectively nullified by DOJ policy.


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