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Alleged 'Johns' Made Public

Across Nassau County, residents are reacting with mixed emotions to the Nassau County District Attorney’s recent arrests of more than 100 men for soliciting prostitutes, including three from Hicksville, four from Levittown, eight from Wantagh and East Meadow, and one from Bethpage. The DA’s office not only arrested the men, but made public their names and photographs.

But for as shocking as these very public revelations may be, some local residents seem nonplussed by the whole incident.

“Personally, I think prostitution should be legal so it doesn’t bother or surprise me much,” said 32-year-old Arielle Gallagher. “However, it should still be regulated through the government for safety and preventive measures.”

The arrests came after a month-long undercover sting conducted by the DA’s office and the police department. “Operation Flush the Johns” was the first of its kind in Nassau County. In the last 10 years, police have arrested fewer than 40 johns. While prostitutes are regularly the prime targets of investigations, those soliciting them are overlooked.

“The johns who fuel the exploitation are treated as mere witnesses,” said Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said. “My office and the police department are turning the tables on the illogical and immoral nature of that equation.”

The men were caught after they responded to escort service ads posted by undercover police on Backpage.com. When the men came to the hotel or motel rooms they were met by male and female officers posing as prostitutes. Hidden cameras that had been installed in the rooms captured visual and audio footage and once money was offered for sex, the arrests were made.

The men came from all over Long Island and ranged in profession, ethnicity and age. The youngest arrested was 17, and the oldest was 79, with the average age being around 40. All of the defendants have been arraigned and pleaded not guilty to Patronizing a Prostitute in the Third Degree. If convicted, each defendant faces a maximum of one year in jail.

Some people have criticized the DA’s office for releasing the names and pictures of the accused, some of whom are respected professionals and fathers.  Regardless of the sentence handed down by the courts, these alleged perpetrators potentially face wrath and disdain from spouses, children, colleagues and friends. However, Rice said that people have a right to know whom their prosecutors and police are arresting. 

“Nobody raises an issue when we put out public information on people accused of financial scams, of corruption, of all sorts of comparable crimes. Why should we give them unprecedented anonymity,” Rice said. “There are not two sets of rules for the cases I make.”

The DA’s office says statistics show prostitution is on the rise in the county. The arrests came after a month-long undercover sting conducted by the DA’s office and the police department. “Operation Flush the Johns” was the first of its kind in Nassau County. In the last 10 years, police have arrested fewer than 40 johns, compared to 1169 prostitution arrests in the last nine years (with 155 of those prostitution arrests in 2013). While prostitutes are regularly the prime targets of investigations, those soliciting them are overlooked.

Rice said negative publicity would deter johns.

“We know the commission of this specific crime is dramatically affected by the perceived risk of getting caught,” Rice said. “Why should we give them secrecy when we know that this crime specifically is often best prevented by these types of publicity events that make people think of the potential consequences of their actions? Giving secrecy won’t deter future johns; it would embolden them. We want them to think twice and these efforts encourage that.”

Despite its illegality, other residents, particularly younger ones, seem less outraged over the seeming plague of prostitution arrests yielded by this sting.

“It certainly doesn’t help the community’s image for local residents to be caught doing something like that,” opined 22-year-old Kevin Koslo. “Still, though, I guess it could be worse.”

And while the public may now have access to the names and faces of the alleged criminals, Brian Griffin, Chair of the Nassau County Bar Association Criminal Court Law & Procedure Committee, said it’s important to remember that all of the 104 men are innocent until proven guilty.

“It’s merely allegations at this point and the criminal justice system should be allowed to take over and the cases should be tried in the court of law and not in the public opinion,” Griffin said. “While it may be interesting to talk about, it’s very serious.”

While this is the first such sting, it may not be the last. The DA’s office says they will continue to actively address prostitution in Nassau County.

“The DA plans to continue to prosecute johns who fuel the demand,” said John Byrne, director of communications and policy for the DA’s office. “This sting certainly puts potential johns on notice that there’s a good chance they’ll be caught if they attempt to patronize a prostitute.”

Dave Gil de Rubio and Stephen Levine contributed to this story.

News

Due to what appears to be a colossal error on the part of the Nassau County Assessor’s office, or perhaps an errant interpretation of state law, more than 600 military veterans and Gold Star families in Hicksville will have to wait for their tax break until next year.

Hicksville is one of several local school districts that recently approved resolutions extending the exemption to local veterans, even though budgets and Albany’s tax cap make it a tough choice. On Feb. 26, with a contingency of veterans in the audience, the board voted to provide a school tax exemption for veterans living in the district, starting with the 2014-15 school year.

You’d expect volleyball, football and running the mile in gym class, but what about juggling, plate spinning, or riding a unicycle? For the past 30 years, The National Circus Project has been challenging typical notions of gym class by bringing skilled, trained circus artists into schools for performances and week-long workshops.

Every year, the Westbury based nonprofit goes into approximately 350 public and private schools all over the northeast, including a previous visit to Dutch Lane School in Hicksville. Teams of expert circus artists will come into a physical education class for either a day or week-long workshop. Students get a front row seat to a performance by some of the best in the business, as well as hands on experience with traditional circus skills such as juggling, wire walking or acrobatics. Students in the week-long workshop get to perfect a specific skill and show it off during a show at the end of the week for family members.


Sports

Cantiague Park Senior Men’s Golf League had its first tournament on Thursday April 4. Twenty golfers came out on on a crisp but sunny morning. Charlie Hong was the only man to score under a 40, with a 38 and won for low overall score. Jim O’ Brien  scored a 41, and won low overall net in a tie-breaker with Mike Guerriero.

Competition on the nine-hole course is divided into two divisions. Flight A is for players with a handicap of 13 or lower. Flight B is for players with a handicap of 14 or more. The league is a 100 percent handicap league. Any man 55 years or older is eligible for membership. We have many openings for this year, and you can sign up anytime throughout the the season.

This November, Hicksville resident Marlo Signoracci will head to Florida for Ironman, a demanding, long-distance triathlon that includes biking, running and swimming. Here, she shares her story as she prepares for one of the most physically challenging athletic events out there.

Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you. They are supposed to help you discover who you are.


Calendar

American Legion Meeting

April 21

HS Theater in the Round

April 24-26

Science Fair

April 26



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