Articles Posted in Prostitution

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This summer, police officers across the United States have been cracking down on prostitution-related offenses. Sting operations aimed at stopping the solicitation of prostitution have been executed across the country, including several in Illinois. The Chicago Tribune reports that a recent sting operation in Arlington Heights resulted in 14 men being charged with the crime of soliciting a sexual act. The Arlington Heights police carried out the sting by placing ads on the internet designating a specific time and hotel for interested people to meet. When individuals arrived at the designated hotel room a female undercover agent greeted them. Additional officers were waiting to arrest offenders who offered money to the undercover agent for sexual acts and to charge them with misdemeanor solicitation of a sexual act.

What Constitutes Entrapment?

Typically, entrapment occurs when a police officer induces someone to commit a crime that he or she would otherwise not have been disposed to commit. Entrapment can be used as a defense to a criminal charge, and is often alleged by defendants who have been charged with solicitation of a sexual act. In Illinois, the legal test for entrapment is contained in 720 ILCS 5/7-12 and prohibits a criminal defendant from being convicted if their illegal conduct was either incited or induced by a public agent in order to obtain evidence for the prosecution of that person. However, entrapment can not be used as a defense if the defendant was predisposed to commit the crime and the public agent simply provided them with the opportunity to commit it.

file2261243267180Illinois is extremely hard on those convicted of sex crimes. In many cases, the law requires those convicted of sex crimes to register on the Illinois Sex Offender Registry, which is a public database. For any number of reasons, people fail to register or renew their registration, sometimes through no fault of their own. So, what happens if you do not register?

Failure to Register as a Sex Offender in Illinois

Failing to register as a sex offender in Illinois, or failing to renew your registration, means you can be charged with a Class 3 felony. If it is the second or subsequent time that you failed to register as a sex offender, or failed to renew your registration as a sex offender, then you can be charged with a Class 2 felony. This means that you will be required to spend a minimum of seven days in jail and pay a minimum fine of $500, although a Class 2 felony could carry a sentence of three to seven years.

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Prostitution and any acts related to prostitution are crimes under the Illinois code. Some prostitution-related crimes even require registration as a sex offender. If you are charged with a prostitution related crime in Illinois, consult an experienced attorney for guidance.

What is Prostitution?

In Illinois, performing, agreeing to perform, or offering to perform any sexual act in exchange for anything of value is considered prostitution. In most cases the charge of prostitution is a Class A misdemeanor. However, if you are charged with prostitution within 1000 feet of a school zone, or if it is your second or subsequent prostitution conviction, you will be charged with a Class 4 Felony.

A Lyons man was arrested last week and charged with two counts of promoting prostitution through a joint investigation by the Cook County Sheriff’s Vice Unit and the Berwyn Police Department. The alleged promotion of prostitution occurred on a website offering goods and services for sale.

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Illinois Promotion of Prostitution

In Illinois a person commits the crime of promoting prostitution if he knowingly arranges, or offers to arrange “a situation in which a person may practice prostitution” and profits from his actions.

The word “knowingly” is important. Unless the prosecution can prove that the defendant knew he was arranging a situation where sex would be bought and sold, he cannot be convicted of promoting prostitution.

In a case like this, where the defendant was arrested based on information posted on a website, there are a number of different avenues the defense can explore that may cast reasonable doubt on the prosecution’s case. These may include:

Whether anybody else had access to the defendant’s computer. Posts to websites can normally be traced back to the user’s IP address. Using a team of computer experts, we could pinpoint the location of the computer which posted the ads, as well as the date and time of the postings, and determine who else may have had access to it. If the computer was the defendant’s, we would look at any roommates, friends or family members who may have had unrestricted access to it at the time the posts were made. If the posts were made at a public computer, such as a library, then proving the defendant made the posts would be extremely difficult, since any number of people could have accessed the computer.

What the defendant thought he was picking up. The defendant was arrested on his way to allegedly pick up proceeds from the prostitution operation. But the fact that he was on his way to a destination to pick up money doesn’t necessarily mean he knew what the money was for. He could have been told the money was a debt owed to the person he was getting it for. Or he may have been told that is was for the sale of an automobile or other property. He may not even have been told to pick up money, but rather simply to go and meet somebody at that location.

Whether any actual profit resulted from the alleged ads. A conviction for promoting prostitution requires that the defendant profited from the alleged prostitution. The defense would need to look closely at any money that the defendant made and whether the money came from payment for prostitution.

Whether the defendant had the means to offer prostitutes. Even if the defendant placed the ads, if he didn’t have the means to fulfill his offer, he cannot be convicted for promoting prostitution. For example, perhaps he was just pulling a prank and intended to video tape and post on social media any people who showed up with the intent of purchasing sex. Or perhaps he arranged to meet individuals who responded to the ads and intended to rob them of the money they had brought for payment. If the defendant did not have the ability to provide prostitutes to anybody who responded to the ads, the charges must be dismissed.

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The Cook County Sheriff’s Office participated in the National Day of Johns Arrests July 17 – August 3, along with 28 other law enforcement agencies in 14 states. The sweep, which was created by the Cook County Sheriff’s Office in 2011, netted 14 men on charges of allegedly being involved in pimping, trafficking or promoting prostitution, while another 184 men were arrested and charged with attempted solicitation.

Chicago Solicitation of Prostitution Cases

Most cases of solicitation involve two consenting adults, neither of whom were kidnapped and forced into prostitution (known as sex trafficking), so it is generally a victimless crime. However, this is not a valid defense in court, because the law assumes that the prostitutes are vulnerable and that their circumstances – for example, a single mother with no other means of support – led them to accept payment for sex. Where leniency is often given to the prostitutes, it is not to the men arrested and charged with solicitation. And a conviction for solicitation is not a slap on the wrist – you face up to a year in jail and a $2,500, not to mention the social stigma.

Because of this automatic bias against those accused of soliciting sex, experienced defense counsel is vital in defending against charges of solicitation. Creating a defense requires examining the circumstances that led up to the arrest to determine whether the prosecution can prove that the defendant was, in fact, soliciting sex. Facts that would negate the prosecution’s claims and require the charges to be dropped or would lead to an acquittal in court may include:

  • Whether the defendant knew the woman was a prostitute (for example, if he thought he was just hitting on a stranger at the bar);
  • Whether any money exchanged hands. Even someone who sells sex for a living can decide to have sex with somebody for free simply because she finds him attractive;
  • Whether the defendant dropped all attempts to have sex with the woman once he realized she was a prostitute;
  • Whether the defendant was enticed or entrapped. These stings often result in overzealous, undercover police officers forcefully attempting to get the defendant to pay for sex in order to make an arrest; or
  • If the alleged solicitation occurred over the Internet, such as in response to a Craigslist ad, did the defendant actually intend to follow through; for example, perhaps he was engaging in some risqué flirting or indulging a fantasy, but never intended to meet the woman at the designated place and time.

If any of these factors are present, then there is a strong defense to be made that the charges should be dropped. Solicitation cases carry a social stigma even if the defendant is ultimately acquitted. Having the case tried in court opens up the possibility for it to be reported in the local newspaper, which can negatively impact your job and public reputation. Our goal in all solicitation cases is to get the charges dropped as quickly as possible to not only avoid potential jail time and fines, but to avoid possible damage to your reputation as well.  Continue reading

A McHenry County, an Illinois judge sentenced Oliver Woodstock to 36 years in prison this week for three counts of sexual assault. A jury found Woodstock guilty in February on one count of sexual assault. He entered into a plea agreement with prosecutors in March; in exchange for prosecutors dropping five additional cases against him, Woodstock would plead guilty to two additional charges of sexual assault. Prosecutors also agreed not to file any more charges against Woodstock if they uncovered additional victims in video recordings seized from his home.

The Woodstock case is unusual in that the victims were all prostitutes whom Woodstock had paid for services prior to the assault.

Illinois Craigslist Rapist

Woodstock was originally charged with sexually assaulting eight women, each of whom he had met on Craigslist and other online dating sites, with the intent of paying them for sex. Woodstock did, in fact, pay the women. According to trial testimony, what began as a consensual encounter quickly turned ugly.

Two women testified to similar stories at trial. Woodstock picked them up and brought them to his home, where he immediately escorted them to his basement. The women testified that Woodstock threatened to report them to the police as prostitutes, and became violent before escorting them upstairs to his bedroom, where he videotaped the sexual assault. The women could be heard saying “No” on the video recordings, and repeatedly asked Woodstock to stop because he was scaring them. Woodstock could be heard telling the women that he didn’t have to stop because he “paid them.” He also threatened to “hunt them down,” as he had their license plate numbers, if they reported the assault to the police.

Withdrawal of Consent as Defense to Rape

The defense argued that the encounter was a business transaction. The woman was a prostitute who was paid for sex, and thus the encounter was consensual. Because consent is always a defense to rape, Woodstock did not in fact commit sexual assault. Instead – for whatever reason – the woman changed her mind at some point during the encounter and decided to claim it was rape.

In some cases though consent can be withdrawn. In Illinois, consent can even be withdrawn while the sexual act is being committed.

In this case, it was clear from video recordings that the woman had withdrawn her consent to the sexual encounter: she repeatedly asked him to stop, and she indicated that she was afraid of him. In addition, he repeatedly threatened to report the woman to the police for prostitution. (Though not raised in this case, the argument could be made whether that threat was one that should have been taken seriously. Had Woodstock reported the woman to the police for prostitution, he would be placing himself in jeopardy of being charged with solicitation as well).

Had the above been a single isolated incident, the defense may have been able to convince the jury that consent was not withdrawn, but that this was a case of “buyer’s remorse.” But the prosecution had eight different women who testified to similar stories – and because Woodstock had recorded the sexual encounters, it also had the evidence to back the women up. In this case it was the pattern of behavior the videos documented – violence, threats, and each woman asking him to stop – that helped sway the jury that although the encounter started off consensual, that consent was ultimately withdrawn, making the encounter a sexual assault. Continue reading