Spitzer Will Not Be Charged

Former Governor Eliot Spitzer will not be charged in connection with his involvement as a customer with a prostitution ring. I’m shocked.  Aren’t you shocked?

“After a thorough investigation, this office has uncovered no evidence of misuse of public or campaign funds,” U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia said in a statement.

The attorney’s office also said it found no illicit activity related to Spitzer’s withdrawal of funds for, and his payments to, the Emperors Club VIP, which authorities have said was a prostitution ring.

“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,” Garcia said.

Right, because that’s how we often treat the women who work as prostitutes, isn’t it?  They accept “responsibility” and law enforcement decides to just let it go, because how does it serve the public interest to prosecute women and humiliate them openly in a society that condemns their work, especially when they’re very often only doing the job because they’re desperate for money, or have even been forced or coerced?

Oh no, wait, actually Eliot Spitzer himself was well-known for prosecuting those running prostitution services and working for them, but not the clients.

There’s nothing to be surprised about here, and not just because Eliot Spitzer used to be governor.  It’s because, as this NYT article notes, clients are rarely prosecuted:

Patricia A. Pileggi, who once prosecuted public corruption cases in Brooklyn, agreed with Mr. Garcia that the federal government does not, as a general rule, prosecute johns in prostitution cases. She said that she once represented a madam in a criminal case and recalled that the clients in the matter were never charged, despite there being evidence to do so.

“What I’m seeing,” Ms. Pileggi said, referring to Mr. Garcia’s decision, “is completely consistent with how they’ve handled other matters.”

And that’s precisely the problem.

As you may know, I support decriminalization of prostitution.  But if we’re going to prosecute those involved with it — which I unfortunately think we will for some time — there is absolutely no non-misogynistic excuse to not charge the clients.  Not prosecuting the clients indicates that selling sex is morally repugnant, but buying it is not.  It indicates that there is something repulsive and wrong about women having sex with many men for a fee, but not about men paying many women fees for that sex.  It says that there is something that needs to be condemned and punished about female sexuality, and in fact female survival, but male sexuality and exploitation ought to just be shrugged off as “boys will be boys.”  And it sure as hell doesn’t do a damn bit of good to help those women who we pretend to be so concerned about.

The good news is that it looks like “Kristen” and the other women who were selling sex for the Emporers Club have not been prosecuted.  Those who ran the business, however, have been.  And again, there is no excuse for punishing those who ensure that there is a supply but not those who create the demand.  There are laws under which to prosecute Spitzer, and they’re the same laws that he wouldn’t have hesitated to use against the same women he hired back when he was Attorney General.  And I’m sick of the excuses.

cross-posted at Feministe

0 thoughts on “Spitzer Will Not Be Charged

  1. Russell

    It’s terrible that the men who perpetuate prostitution aren’t charged for breaking the law when they’re obviously caught red-handed. It’s almost as if the law sees the prostitutes as drug dealers and the Johns as users. Rarely in Canada will we prosecute the users, but the law will go after the dealers. I agree that Johns should be prosecuted, but it’s a difficult precident to set up. Almost any precident setting case would be overturned since it would have to be a particularly extreme case for a new level of punishment being handed out. I support decriminilization, but perhaps there could be a minimum sentence for any John who was caught? Although that seems a bit “two steps forward, one step back”.

  2. Cara Post author

    Rarely in Canada will we prosecute the users, but the law will go after the dealers.

    God, I wish we could say the same for the U.S.

  3. Jenn

    I used to believe that being a pessimist was cool because I’ve always be right or pleasantly surprised.

    Being right as of this moment really sucks.

    So Spitzer goes free while madams and prostitutes have their lives ruined… if they’re still alive to have them ruined. Lest we forget, men are the unwilling slaves of their cocks, and prostitutes are just the most vile form of woman who makes them pay for slaking the unending aching of their balls. But all women make their balls ache. Prostitutes just provide the goods and fuel the addiction, and thus, are the most criminal.

    I wish I could turn my brain off. Thinking about how someone could rationalize the decision to let Spitzer go makes me want to kill things.

  4. SunlessNick

    Lest we forget, men are the unwilling slaves of their cocks, and prostitutes are just the most vile form of woman who makes them pay for slaking the unending aching of their balls.

    How similar client apologism is to rape apologism.

  5. Catie

    “women…when they’re very often only doing the job because they’re desperate for money, or have even been forced or coerced?”

    I truly do believe you when you make this statement, but would appreciate a reference to the phenomenon (or several).

    It may be a small quibble, but one of my main defensive arguments in all philosophies of feminism is solid fact. Reasonable people who may oppose my viewpoints cannot argue with well-documented realities.

  6. space

    So it goes:

    The rich man stands to lose only his high-profile job, and the poor man stands to lose his freedom, for the same crimes.

  7. spencer

    sending people who hire sex workers to prison is not a good idea.

    It doesn’t address any of the problems that have been presented.

    You’re absolutely correct that it establishes an unfair double-standard to only prosecute the sex worker or their employer.

    The way in which we should oppose that is by legalizing sex work, not putting more people in jail.

    whatever happened to compassion, sheesh. Some pretty mean things to say from people who claim to be so open minded.

  8. Cara Post author

    Spencer, if your question is whether or not I have compassion for people who hire other people for sex, the answer is that I do not, at least not in that capacity. (Of course if something bad happens to them, like a family member dies or they lose their job, I have compassion for that. But while I think that they ideally should not be locked up, I don’t have compassion for them on the very rare occasion that they are. I have compassion for those whose jobs are pushed farther underground by their clients’ fears of arrest.)

  9. Dorian Leroux

    I would like to warn you NOT to legalize sex work.
    Because the legalisation of sex work is just the first step and then “they” do “forget” the second step: criminalising suitors.

    Except Sweden.
    But other countries who have legalised sex work have had very negative experiences:
    Netherlands, Germany. The prostitutes do legal work now but they are still shamed and blamed. The suitors are never shamed nor blamed and in fact it still seems to be an issue of “proofing” that a man is a man when he … .

    Sweden has experienced one negative consequence of criminalising suitors: now the only suitors who still pay for sex are the worst of all (violent). The former “good” (mild-mannered) suitors do not pay prostitutes any more.
    At least that is what some swedish prostitutes say. They also claim that sex work has been driven into darker grounds which are difficult to control.
    Nevertheless hardly any prostitute ever files a suit against her suitor because the prostitute does not want to scare clients nor does she want to earn a reputation for sueing her clients …

    Experiences from other countries:
    Additionally legalised sex work makes it much more difficult for police forces to control brothels because everything is “legal” now. Formerly the police would claim they wanted to control prostitutes and illegally immigrated prostitutes and forced prostitution but now they can’t get the jurisdiction to allow them to raid brothels because the law does not provide support for raids any more (because it is a legal business now).

    Of course the johns and suitors now that and you can imagine how they behave…

    Additionally it is way more difficult to remove a legally operating brothel from any community than it was before.
    I think it is nearly needless to say that prostitution and brothels are often accompanied by drugs and junkies and drug dealers and violence and … . So every community dreads to have a brothel somewhere near.

    Please do not legalize sex work. Punish the prostitutes less if you want but do not legalize it because all the aspects of legalizing sex work make this very very undesirable and even dangerous.

    Maybe you could find a better solution?

  10. Dorian Leroux

    “Sweden has experienced one negative consequence of criminalising suitors: now the only suitors who still pay for sex are the worst of all (violent). The former “good” (mild-mannered) suitors do not pay prostitutes any more.”

    I would like to add that the “good” suitors have been scared off from buying sex.

    And I would like to add that once prostitution is legal a government might consider it appropriate for any unemployed woman to do legal sex work before she receives federal unemployment aid (/ social aid payments).

    Additionally: What sign is sent out to young people if prostitution is legalized? That you can (ab)use somebody else’s body for your own pleasure without caring for his/her pleasure.
    Is that what you want to teach young people?

  11. Cara Post author

    Dorian, your comment is just confusing all over the place. First of all, you speak to me as though I have some honest sway or decision-making power regarding the issue. I wish. But I don’t.

    Further, you note the horribleness of not prosecuting johns, and then point out all of the problems happening in Sweden because they are. Precisely. I don’t a Swedish model where we decrim prostitution but prosecute johns. At a purely visceral level, I like the idea, it sounds like a good one. But it’s worthless and dangerous. It’s a bad idea. It hurts sex workers. You made that argument yourself.

    I don’t see any point in raiding brothels unless they have good reason to believe that a crime has been committed. So if you’re telling me that police can’t raid brothels with no evidence anymore, I say great! I believe in warrants. And if police have evidence that someone is being trafficked, they can use that evidence to get one. Hooray for an end to raiding brothels for the ostensible purpose of “helping” women and then locking them up in jail.

    I do not want to punish prostitutes “less.” I only want to punish people who have done something worth punishing. I want people who have done no harm to other and our society — like sex workers and drug addicts — to not have that black mark on their record at all, since it only make their time getting out of the situation if they want a million times more difficult. You want a different solution? Come up with it, and stop whining at me if you think you know better.

    What sign does it send to young people if prostitution is legalized? I hope that it sends a message that we don’t value the rights of some people t work and make a living free of terror over other people. We already send the message to young people that you can use and abuse someone else’s body. It’s called rape culture. It’s called teaching boys that sex is a conquest rather than a mutual act. The work on our society doesn’t end with decriminalization of prostitution. And it’s really ridiculous to suggest that I or anyone else thinks that it does.

  12. Neon

    Selling something illegal is always prosecuted more harshly than buying illegal good. If you sell drugs you are going to do two to three times as much jail time than if you bought them. This is the main idea behind prosecuting prostitutes. Legalization would be a better option for the sake of the safety the workers. As far as Spitzer is concerned he’s entirely guilty. He moved money around various accounts to hide it’s original source and avoid prosecution, this is text book money laundering.

  13. Cara Post author

    If you sell drugs you are going to do two to three times as much jail time than if you bought them.

    But you still serve jail time. (Though of course you shouldn’t.)

  14. Neon

    No you shouldn’t serve time for drugs just as you probably shouldn’t serve time for prostitution. Men are charged on a regular basis for soliciting prostitution, their cars are taken away and they are brought up on misdemeanor charges. Women, seen as dealers by the courts, are charged with a felony.

  15. Cara Post author

    So are you saying the prosecutors are wrong? I think that men are regularly arrested for soliciting prostitutes — charged is another matter. And even if they were, Spitzer is apparently not going to be among them, which is the specific problem at hand.

  16. Neon

    When it comes to misdemeanors it’s not uncommon for charges to be dropped. If the person doesn’t have a record the judge will just tell him not to do it again. You can claim the law is sexist but when men act as prostitutes they are also charged with felony.

    In Sptizer’s case the prostitution count may have been his downfall but really is trivial. He laundered money, that’s a clear cut felony! He knew what the law was and he purposely removed the legal limit form his account without setting off federal flags. He then deposited the money into another account to pay for the services. Letting him walk on a misdemeanor is one thing but letting him walk on a blatant felony is a travesty.


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