Samuel Goldberg has been a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney for 20 years. Prior to that, he was a New York state prosecutor. He has published various articles regarding the practice of criminal law and frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on outlets such as the Fox News Channel, Court TV, MSNBC and The BBC Network. To speak to Sam about a criminal matter call (617) 492 3000.

Prosecuting Attorneys And Rhode Island Politicians Prevent Murder And Other Violent Felonies By Going After Victims And Other Easy Targets

This week ends as last week ended. From Boston to Providence, and beyond, law makers and enforcers are struggling with how to address the problems presented by the so-called “Craigslist Killer” (hereinafter, “CLK”). The case grows almost daily as he is now facing murder charges in Massachusetts and assault/robbery charges in Rhode Island. One would imagine that prosecuting attorneys, politicians and law enforcement would be concentrating on bringing CLK to trial and working to prevent such murders.

…And you would be wrong.

Instead, the response seems to be to attack the victims’ profession and method of advertisement. In other words, do everything possible to keep sex workers like the victims in the shadows of society so that they can continue to be easy victims to people like Jack The Ripper and CLK.

The Massachusetts CLK case was the crime of murder. The Rhode Island Matter involved assault and robbery. The victims were both of the sex industry and they purportedly met CLK through the website Craigslist.com. There are no allegations of any sexual acts, voluntary or forced, having been a component on CLK’s violent crimes.

Yet, somehow, the matter is being treated as if it were about the sex trade.
Somehow, the work of a twisted killer has become the fault of the profession of prostitution as well as Craigslist’s posting of ads which have, it turns out, sometimes been fronts for said trade.

And so, this past Wednesday apparently marked a great victory for humanity everywhere. Justice is finally being done and we are one step closer to murder-free.

By that, you might think I am referring to a new arrest or conviction of CLK. Not at all. I am referring to Craigslist’s announcement that “…postings to the ‘erotic services’ category will no longer be accepted, and in 7 days the category will be removed”.

Now, we can all feel much safer. Thank heaven for those brave and dedicated bastions of Justice, the attorneys general of various states, who had the wisdom and expertise to see beyond the obvious conclusion that CLK was simply another repeat violent offender who used the site merely as a means…much as he used hotel rooms.

By the way, there is no movement to outlaw hotels, or the use thereof, on the books.

Yet.

Interestingly, Craigslist also revealed that “… completely contrary to some of the sensationalistic journalism we’ve seen these past few weeks, the record is clear that use of Craigslist classifieds is associated with far lower rates of violent crime than print classifieds, let alone rates of violent crime pertaining to American society as a whole” . On the other hand, why muck up the pretty fantasy that this somehow serves public safety with facts?

AGs throughout the nation are applauding this victory and patting themselves on the back. Missouri AG Koster issued the statement that, “While no solution is likely to be perfect given the nature of prostitution, Craigslist’s response is a step in the right direction…Nonetheless, we will continue to closely monitor the site to make certain craigslist’s proposals are effective.”

Yes. That is sure to prevent the next series of murder and robbery…!

Meanwhile, closer to home, Rhode Island has decided to promote public safety and prevent violent crime by taking on one of its own laws.

No, nothing about guns, robbery or even hotels.

The House Judiciary Committee has swiftly approved a bill to criminalize prostitution that occurs indoors. Apparently, back when neighborhoods had to fear street-level brothels and streetworkers, the legislation neglected to specifically mention sex for money transactions that were not in the open air, but behind closed doors.

Therefore, the “hidden from view” profession was not specifically illegal.

But, now that prostitution seems to have moved off the streets and onto the internet and behind closed doors…and given the media frenzy about C:K, Rhode Island has decided to chase them out of said locations. Being that we probably all know that the world’s oldest profession is not likely to entirely vanish, one strains to imagine where the trade will go next. Hey…maybe it’ll be safer back on the streets…?

After all, this is the age of CLK. Clearly, the sex industry is to blame for the killing and robbing. Therefore, I suppose the “reasoning” goes, attack “behind closed doors” prostitution and monitor Craigslist, and such violent crimes will not re-occur.

But then again, there are other good arguments for spending the time and money involved in the debating the bill now on its way to the RI senate. I mean, other than the fact that, apparently, there are no other pressing concerns to work on.

After all, Rhode Island is the only state, except for certain counties in Nevada, that has no prohibition against indoor prostitution. As Representative Joanne M. Giannini brilliantly decried when she introduced the bill, “Why should Rhode Island have this dubious distinction?” She went on to pose the mind-numbing conundrums “Rape behind closed doors, is that permissible? Is murder permissible if it’s done behind closed doors?”

Excellent points all! After all, CLK attacked his victims behind closed doors…and we are prosecuting HIM. And, of course, prostitution is the same as murder, rape and robbery, isn’t it? If not the actual cause of those very crimes themselves…!

Rhode Island lawmakers are not without sympathy for the prostitutes themselves, though. In the proposed law, they have included an exemption for the actual sex workers. Basically, if the worker claims to have been forced to be a prostitute, and point the finger at someone else to blame for their life of vicious crime, she gets an exemption from prosecution.

Giannini has been quixotic in pursuing this vital legislation. In fact, she has introduced versions of the bill in each of the last three years. However, this was the first time it has gained enough support among the membership to move it out of committee
I guess CLK came at the right time to solve this lifesaving measure!.

Attorney Sam’s Take:

Beyond the sarcasm these situations are pretty serious and effect you and yours much more than you think. After all, this is not a political blog, but a blog dealing with criminal justice issues.

Let’s put aside that both the attacks on Craigslist and Rhode Island’s utter waste of time and resources merely help to perpetuate the dangers that prosecutors and politicians claim to be trying to prevent. Let’s forget that, assuming they are intelligent professionals, these proponents are fully aware of the hypocrisy of what they are doing, yet do not care, because it looks good in the media. Let’s ignore that, in effect, these government actions are simply blaming the victim.

Let’s look at the people on the periphery of the profession. Let’s look at people who run websites like Craigslist, or whatever the advertising format of the future. Let’s look at other people who, perhaps through temporary circumstances, are doing something left legal on the books…only to find that, because of the “crime of the day”, their profession or activity is now being made illegal.

Most of all, let’s look at the hysteria around high profile violent crimes and our leaders’ reaction by blaming those around the outline of a particular crime, in effect, making them another victim, by trying to label them as “the problem”.

Throughout the months this daily Criminal Law Blog has been posting, I have warned that when times get tough, law enforcement goes blaming. When the Madoff scandal occurred, I warned that the finger of blame would be swinging around wildly. And it has been. Last week, I dealt with our schizophrenic relationship with prostitution. Last Friday, I spoke about CLK.

The issue is the same.

The fact is that it does involve you because you might be the next one standing next to the target of a high profile violent felony investigation. When that happens, the spotlight tends to widen and you may become one of the infamous figures in the news who is partly to blame for some criminal’s actions.

When that happens, you will find that your livelihood, family and perhaps very liberty is at stake.

So, this should concern you. If not to take action politically, then to be aware of the problem and wary of what is going on around you. After all, Craigslist did what it did because of the public pressure and threats of prosecution. How will you react when the finger is pointed at you?

Well, you know that already, don’t you? You need to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney to advise and protect you immediately.

Or have I mentioned that already?

Have a good, safe and law-abiding weekend!

The full articles of this story can be found at, http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2347037,00.asp and http://www.projo.com/news/content/PROSTITUTION_BILL_05-01-09_QDE7QTD_v46.38672b3.html

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