By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Why Spitzer has to go

Alan Dershowitz explains in today’s New York Times:

“Men go to prostitutes — big deal, that’s not a story in most parts of the world,” Mr. Dershowitz said.

But he also said he had been surprised when Mr. Spitzer prosecuted a prostitution ring in 2004.

“I always thought he was somebody who would come down on crimes with real victims,” Mr. Dershowitz said. “Prostitutes aren’t victims — they’re getting paid a thousand dollars an hour, and the johns aren’t victims. What upset me the most was that they wiretapped thousands of e-mails and phone calls. In an age when terrorism needs to be stopped, they’re devoting these kinds of resources to a prostitution ring?”

Here is the Times account of that 2004 bust — 18 people arrested thanks to Spitzer’s efforts, apparently for doing nothing worse than what Spitzer appears to have done. I couldn’t find any follow-up stories. Does anyone know if any of them went to prison?

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40 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    Two things:Alan Dershowitz is essentially making the argument that Spitzer had to go before he was even elected. Derschowitz is arguing that he was guilty of wasting resources fighting prostitution in 2004.The 18 people who were busted in 2004 were charged with helping to run a prostitution ring. They weren’t customers. There is a difference, though both are against the law.

  2. Anonymous

    I think I can say with confidence that The Dersh is the only person you have quoted to be happily photographed while sunbathing nude on the Vineyard.

  3. Dan Kennedy

    The Dersh is a god. But that’s kind of unappetizing, isn’t it?

  4. Anonymous

    Dershowitz said in his recent NYT quote that prostitutes aren’t victims” and they are paid “thousands of dollars an hour.”That may be the case with the ring Spitzer uses, but the NYT story cited above that has details on the ring Spitzer prosecuted indicated that the fee was $250 for sex, with the prostitutes receiving a cut of about one-third of that.With all the reasons NOT to patronize prostitutes — moral issues, duplicity if married, fear of embarrassment, loss of job, prosecution, disease, etc. — I would think buyer’s remorse would loom pretty large. $4300! My wife would be more likely to forgive the transgression against fidelity than the breach of fiduciary responsibility!Bob in Peabody

  5. Anonymous

    Bob touches on a point I know we’re all anxious to learn much more about – the high cost of discretion notwithstanding, why so expensive? Just what “dangerous” things does he like? Damnit, if we don’t have a major story on this by tomorrow, the media are failing us.

  6. Anonymous

    Sorry, I see I got the quote wrong. What the complaint acually says is:LEWIS continued that from what she had been told “he” (believed to be a reference to Client-9) “would ask you to do things that, like, you might not think were safe – you know – I mean that . . . very basic things.So it sounds like maybe he just doesn’t like rubbers. How boring. Here I was hoping he likes dressing up in lingerie and biting people like Marv Albert.

  7. mike_b1

    “In an age when terrorism needs to be stopped, they’re devoting these kinds of resources to a prostitution ring?”That’s a specious argument on so many fronts. 1. “Terrorism needs to be stopped.” Does it? It’s been a part of history since, well, history. Yet somehow we’ve made it this far.2. Priorities. You can always find something more important than “X.” So by that logic, “X” should never be dealt with. I wonder if Dershowitz uses that argument when his wife tells him to take out the trash. “Can’t — I’m trying to get O.J. off the hook.” What he’s saying is that prosecutors can’t do more than one thing at a time. Or, that he has a mound of garbage in his kitchen the size of the Tower of Babel. Unlikely.3. Prostitution generally preys on some of the most vulnerable members of society. Most of the strippers* at the Foxy Lady, for example, see the same psychologist at Brown (can’t tell you how I know that). For the most part, they are drug-addicted and mentally ill. What’s government’s role? To protect the most vulnerable members of society from people like Spitzer. And, I suppose, Derschowitz.*But strippers aren’t prostitutes, you say? At the FL, they are.

  8. Anonymous

    Maybe I’m alone here, but I’m far more interested in the tax angle. Was public money used for this? Were “business deductions” taken?And why is no one asking why Vitter (R-LA) isn’t being called on to resign when, aside from the interstate aspect of it, there’s no difference between the two cases?

  9. Anonymous

    Mike, you certainly know a lot about the Foxy Lady . . .

  10. Dan Kennedy

    Anon 2:31: Vitter never tried to put anyone in prison for a prostitution-related crime, as Spitzer had. The tax implications of this are very interesting indeed, and they’re probably what’s going to be Spitzer’s undoing.

  11. DJS

    And only last week I thought that if the Dems blow it this fall, Spitzer would have been the party’s best shot in 2012.Doug

  12. Neil

    So far the only diff between Vitter and Spitzer’s actions is the hypocrisy of the latter prosecuting birds of his feather. Vitter on the other hand isn’t a hypocrite, because he asked for, and received, forgiveness from God. And his wife. (Though who cares about her if you’ve got forgiveness from the Big Guy Himself.) God wouldn’t forgive a hypocrite so Vitter mustn’t be one.

  13. Anonymous

    Re: Mike b-1 comment on Foxy Lady strippers seeing “the same psychologist at Brown.” At least the shrink is spared a steady diet of people depressed that they didn’t get into Harvard or Yale.

  14. Anonymous

    Yeah, Mike. Tom Tsoumas of the FL isn’t your problem. His partners, however, have NO sense of humor. I would leave the hard-hitting exposes to John DePetro….

  15. Anonymous

    Couple quick hits:The Dersh loses points for disingenuousness. He is a Harvard classmate, friend and contributor to Spitzer.Tell the next hooker beaten near to death by her pimp for not turning over 80 percent of the take that prostitution is victimless.Spitzer is potentially facing charges for “structuring,” which is the illegal and intentionally clandestine movement of cash to benefit a criminal enterprise.Maybe you can make an argument that Vitter didn’t try to take away people’s freedom but Larry Craig did for those who do essentially what he did. Why hasn’t he resigned?

  16. Dan Kennedy

    I think the reason Larry Craig hasn’t resigned is that he didn’t do anything. Just a guess.

  17. Anonymous

    Dershowitz is a misogynystic narcissist. He seems to be of the school that believes prostitutes all do it because they like the money and they have freedom of choice. Hey, maybe they even LIKE it, right? and they like getting paid for it. Mike B1 is 100% correct about most prostitutes. Most of the 8-9 women killed and dumped alongside highways outside New Bedford back in the 1980s were heroin addicts, had come from abusive households and were turning tricks in Weld Square to pay for their drug habits. But Mr. Dershowitz would have us believe they enjoy it, they like the money and they chose that line of work because of what, the great benefits? Or the chance to be beaten to death by a man, or infected with a fatal STD or, perhaps, to be thrown in jail and further humiliated? Oh, wait, he’s talking about high-class “call girls.” The make a lot of money so they must live great lives and enjoy the sex.

  18. Anonymous

    Thing is, these *are* “high-class” call girls, they do make good money, and some of them probably *do* enjoy it (depending on the client, I would imagine), unlike the more unfortunate working girls Anon. 4:28 is referring to. Anyway, after perusing the site, I realize I had no idea how much a few hours with a model-quality “escort” costs . . . thousands of dollars, plus their room and transportation? Exactly what does a $5,000 intimate encounter feel like? How much better is it, really, than just dialing up a video and sorting things out yourself?

  19. Nick

    Mike/Anonymous,I can’t believe I’m taking the same side as pro-torture Dershowitz, but just because some people in the sex work industry are exploited doesn’t mean you should make the whole industry illegal. People are routinely exploited in farms and factories in this country, but that doesn’t mean we should outlaw farms and factories. It means we should prosecute exploitation when it occurs.Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never met someone who did sex work who thought their job was a cakewalk. But despite your characterization, plenty of people do sex work to make a real living–not to feed a drug habit. And I bet you those that are dealing with dangerous and abusive pimps and johns would feel a whole lot more comfortable reporting them to the police if they weren’t afraid of being thrown in jail themselves.Treating women as fully capable of making decisions about their own bodies is hardly misogynistic.

  20. liamstliam

    The “dangerous” thing was that he liked to have sex without a condom.That’s my understanding.It’s fun being in the Albany area while all this is going down.;)

  21. Man who's no Spitzer fan

    Perhaps the most interesting thing is watching how many good, interesting and (even) important stories are being shoved to the side to make room for this stampede of schadenfreude. I suppose what amazes me more than anything else is how publicity hounds like Spitzer think they can get away with stupid stuff like this. I mean, he MUST have people reminding him that when you’re going to run on a “law and order, clean up the mess” reputation, that you must be Caesar’s wife; you cannot even have a hint of dirt on you.Of course, politics is a very dirty business, and I suppose one does not get elected office without getting some mud splattered on yourself. But still, this isn’t political mud, this is just dumb.Unless, of course, for the conspiracy-minded among us…this is all just a coverup. A small sin for the masses to focus on when a much larger sin was discovered in private. Reminds me of that Law and Order episode that was a thinly-veiled swipe at Bernard Kerik’s failed nomination as DHS Director.

  22. mike_b1

    Nick, that’s a fallacious line of thinking too. You can always find some people who can’t be painted with the broad brush. For example, just because some priests are pederasts doesn’t mean priesthood should be illegal. Well, sure. But try inverting the statement: Just because some prostitutes are mentally stable and like getting paid for sex doesn’t mean prostitution should be legal. Does it? Remember, Dershowitz is the same guy who thinks the age of consent should be lowered “considerably” (as I understand it, it’s 16 per MGL c.265 s.23.), and called the 2005 Milton Academy statutory rape “the most senseless use of prosecutorial discretion I’ve seen in a long time.” He’s prone to embellishment (which is probably why reporters keep calling him for quotes). A little projection, maybe? Methinks he doth protest too much.

  23. Anonymous

    Mike, I agreed with the Dersh about Milton. That was ridiculous. News flash: high school kids at exclusive boarding schools have wild, unbelievable sex, the kind we old folks daydream about.

  24. Anonymous

    Anon 3:11, you illustrate why stuff we see on the web deserves a grain of salt. Eg:” Dersh loses points for disingenuousness. He is a Harvard classmate, friend and contributor to Spitzer.” Dersh went to Yale Law after Brooklyn College. When he started as a teacher at Harvard Law in 1966, Spitzer was about seven years old. He’s not THAT bright.

  25. mike_b1

    Four boys run a train on a younger (drunk?) girl and it’s “the most senseless use of prosecutorial discretion I’ve seen in a long time”?If that was your daughter, how would you’d feel?And Dersh is probably the first guy to call the cops when his trees get teepeed.

  26. Anonymous

    Mike, I’m not going to rehash the whole thing here – there was plenty of coverage at the time. There was no indication that anyone was intoxicated or that she wasn’t there of her own volition.One thing we parents struggle with is our kids’ burgeoning sexuality .. . .some people just LIKE doing what she was doing, you know, and it’s not about coercion or low self-esteem.

  27. mike_b1

    Milton Academy’s official statement: “This behavior … is simply unacceptable at Milton Academy. It was a situation where coercion, either implicit or explicit, was an element of the interaction.”And either way, under the laws of the Commonwealth a crime was committed and justice was meted. It’s always nice to see prominent attorneys castigate officials for fulfilling their sworn duty to uphold the law.As a parent, you should know as well as anyone that children’s (including teens’) brains are not fully developed and their ability to exercise judgment is biologically less than someone just a few years’ older. That’s why we have laws: to protect those who cannot protect themselves. The solution isn’t to say it’s every man (or woman, or child) for themselves. (Except, of course, Israel, which we should all naturally defend to the death.)And isn’t Dersh the guy who wants to have full-fledged animal rights? Yet he doesn’t see that kids are even more vulnerable to other humans than many animals.

  28. Anonymous

    Mike, as a parent, I counsel our two teens constantly on safety and making wise choices. Unfortunately it is not as black and white as you would have it. Yep, they’re still kids, but they’re young adults, too. When I was that age I distinclty remember feeling how hypocritical it was of my elders to warn me off the very things I felt biologically and emotionally ready to do. Just becuase Dersh is wrong about other things doesn’t mean he’s wrong about this. I will remind you the parents of the girl were opposed to criminal proceedings and also did not support expelling the boys. You make it sound like they were adults – they were kids, too. Shocking, isn’t it? Young, healthy teens, away from home and the watchful eyes of their parents, indulging in their sexual impulses with their peers. Why, that never happened when I was 16! It’s the media’s fault!

  29. Anonymous

    Anon at 10:54. You’re right, I was wrong about the class ties with Spuitzer and Dershowitz. This form a 2006 profile in the Globe:Twenty-three years ago, two Harvard Law students were wandering through a gay bathhouse in Boston with their professor. The men were meeting with the bathhouse operator, who claimed to have information relating to drug deliveries made to the house of Sunny von Bülow, a socialite who had gone into a coma, and whose second husband, Claus, had recently been convicted of trying to murder her.“If my mother and father knew what kind of education their tuition was buying, they’d transfer me to business school,” one of the students said, according to the book “Reversal of Fortune,” while the other replied, “If they saw the number of business school graduates that are clients here, they’d send you to divinity school.”One of the students was Eliot Spitzer, and the other was Cliff Sloan, now the publisher of Slate. Mr. Spitzer’s professor, Alan Dershowitz, was handling Claus von Bülow’s appeal, and was the author of “Reversal of Fortune.” It may be a grain of salt to you but it’s still a tasty seasoning.

  30. Anonymous

    Hit send too fast. Meant a NY Times profile, sted Globe.My gawd, what I’d give to be perfect.

  31. mike_b1

    anon 1:42: Your teenage daughter is gang-banged by five older youths and you would rather let them cop a plea than go to trial? Duh. Going to court only ensures the entire Commonwealth would learn her identity; that the sordid, painful affair gets dragged on for years; you pay tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal expenses; and in the end, who knows what the outcome will be?Faced with that, why on earth would they pursue it? Sounds like her parents were wiser by half than just about everyone else.

  32. Anonymous

    Mike_”Always Has to get the Last Word”_b1 – that’s one possible explanation, out of many. They also thought expulsion was too harsh, though.No one involved alleged coercion, regardless of Milton’s statement.I don’t know how you define “gang bang,” but my recollection is that it was one specific act, one guy at a time, while the others waited in a separate part of the locker room.Again, you’re trying to make this thing black and white – jocks gang bang helpless child! – and it evidently wasn’t, at all.

  33. Anonymous

    Also, Mike, you are inaccurate – they did not merely choose not to go to trial. They said they thought criminal proceedings were unreasonable – big difference.

  34. mike_b1

    Oh, they sound like such nice young men. They waited in line outside: How polite! I think I really must have them over sometime soon.*eye roll*Define “unreasonable.” Putting my family through the microscope of a trial would be unreasonable, in my opinion, especially if the prosecutors felt they could get a plea. Yes, ids make mistakes. In this case, they made a big one. The kids broke the law. Why you choose to defend their behavior is beyond me. Why a lawyer or members of the public would complain about officials enforcing the law is bizarre.

  35. Anonymous

    Roll your eyes all you want. You seem to be forgetting this appears to be a scene the girl was into – it happened on other occasions.I refuse to judge them, including her. The law they broke is flawed and I think it’s wrong to prosecute teenagers for messing around within their peer group. All parents eventually have to come to terms with it: your sweet little angels grow into insatiable teenage horn dogs. If you don’t want them in scenes like that, keep an eye on them. What in the world do you think goes on at private boarding schools???Anyway, this argument has gone far afield from the theme of the thread. Go ahead and have the last word – you’re going to one way or another anyway.

  36. mike_b1

    I disagree that it’s gone far afield. You/Dersh feel that there are a limited number of laws worth upholding. I feel that if it’s on the books, it’s worth upholding. Otherwise, get it off the books. And don’t persecute the people whose salaries our taxes pay for doing what we elected them to do.(Oh, and it’s clear to me that AD is a perv and probably hangs hard in some places that even former Illinois pol Jack Ryan wouldn’t go.)

  37. mike_b1

    Oh, and lookie here (from Spitzer’s call girl’s MySpace page):”I have been alone. I have abused drugs. I have been broke and homeless. But, I survived, on my own. I am here, in NY because of my music,” she wrote.So much for being a mature, together adult in her right mind.http://tiny.cc/UlPan

  38. Anonymous

    Mike, the law in question is absurd. It stipulates that the 15-year-old girl in question could not “consent,” therefore what happened was rape, even though those involved were all minors and no one has suggested that she did not fully consent.You know, there used to be some laws on the books in the south known as Jim Crow that some thought were so absurd as to dismiss. And other blue laws, such as those making oral or anal sex between consentng adults a criminal act. Oh, crap, you were supposed to have the last word.

  39. mike_b1

    So you’ve gone from 1) Dersh was right to 2) the girl was a tramp to 3) kids will be kids to 4) her parents didn’t care to 5) the laws are lousy. What’s next: God commanded the Milton gangbang?Picking up from your most recent excuse: “Used to be … on the books.” That’s the operative term, and a big one.So if the law is bad, you change the law. You don’t hang the police and State’s Attorneys for enforcing them. But that’s what Mr. Constitutionality himself went ahead and did. (And you are too, btw.)

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