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Why Was Law Dean Let Off?

We noted here Monday the abrupt resignation of Mark Sargent as dean of Villanova University School of Law. His resignation was later linked to his involvement in a prostitution investigation. State police said he had been seen leaving a house of prostitution during a raid last November. He was not charged with any crime and was said to have cooperated with police in prosecuting the owner of the house and two alleged prostitutes.

But why was Sargent not charged? That is the question raised by Ann Bartow at the blog Feminist Law Professors. Why should the women who sell sex be arrested while the buyer goes free? She notes a news report about the incident in which the owner of the house contended that authorities treated Sargent as a "celebrity perp" and gave him "a free pass."

He said police repeatedly referred to him as the "brothel operator," while treating Sargent "with deference."

"If you watch the taped interview, the police are almost apologetic with this guy," Clark said of Sargent. "They told him, 'You just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time,' and they agreed to contact him at his office, not his home.

The article also notes that the prosecutor, Chester County District Attorney Joseph W. Carroll, is a Villanova law grad. Carroll said no one from Villanova called him about the case. The only call he received was from Sargent's attorney, Bruce Castor, who is also a county commissioner in a neighboring county. Castor asked Carroll whether he intended to release Sargent's name. Carroll said no.

Carroll told news reporters that his practice is never to charge or identify customers in prostitution busts. Instead, he uses them to build the case against the prostitutes. His treatment of Sargent, he says, was no different than how he would treat any customer.

But Bartow wonders why johns such as Sargent who purchase sex should be shielded from public view when the women who sell it -- and who could well have already had to perform degrading acts at the john's request -- are deemed by law enforcement to deserve jail time and public shaming. "Chances are the referenced women have had pretty difficult, unprivileged lives so far ... and their unfortunate contacts with Sargent have only brought them additional trouble," she writes. "Sargent may have been humiliated, but they are going to jail."

So did Sargent's "celebrity" as a law dean earn him special treatment? Or did he simply benefit from a double standard that pervades the prosecution of sex crimes?

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on July 9, 2009 at 03:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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