Men charged in prostitution sting appear in courtSix of the nine men accused of soliciting in prostitution in a public place made an appearance in Carlton County Court Wednesday. The men were arrested June 29, following a year-long, multi-agency investigation and sting operation conducted in Cloquet after authorities received information that individuals had been seeking prostitution for hire via the Internet. Each faces one gross misdemeanor count of hiring, offering or agreeing to hire to engage in prostitution in a public place.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
Six of the nine men accused of soliciting in prostitution in a public place made an appearance in Carlton County Court Wednesday. The men were arrested June 29, following a year-long, multi-agency investigation and sting operation conducted in Cloquet after authorities received information that individuals had been seeking prostitution for hire via the Internet. Each faces one gross misdemeanor count of hiring, offering or agreeing to hire to engage in prostitution in a public place.
Daniel Scott Smith, 34, of Duluth entered into a plea agreement on Wednesday in return for a one-year stay of imposition and one year of unsupervised probation, along with a $1,500 fine, a $250 penalty and $85 in court fees. Smith, who has no previous criminal record, pleaded guilty to offering $100 for sexual services at a motel in Cloquet to a woman he had initially made contact with in response to an advertisement on a website. Judge Dale Wolf accepted Smith’s guilty plea and sentenced him accordingly.
Attorney David Keegan, representing defendant Jervis Michael Stoffel, 54, of Duluth, requested a non-contested omnibus be set on Stoffel’s behalf. Keegan said Stoffel is willing to waive the 28-day rule that requires a case be heard in a timely fashion. Judge Wolf set Stoffel’s omnibus hearing for 9 a.m. Aug. 31.
Daniel Edward Fitzgibbons, 42, of Minneapolis, entered a guilty petition through his attorney, Andrew Pierce, in return for a one-year stay of imposition, one year of unsupervised probation, a $1,500 fine, a $250 penalty and $85 in court fees. Fitzgibbons admitted to Judge Wolf that he offered $120 to a female in exchange for sexual services at the motel where the arrest was made. Fitzgibbons has no previous criminal record. Judge Wolf sentenced him according to the terms of the plea agreement.
Daryl Allan Harper, 62, of Duluth was also represented by Pierce, who informed Wolf that Harper was willing to enter into a plea agreement on the charge. When asked by Wolf if he agreed to plead guilty to offering to pay $200 to two women in return for sexual services, Harper said he recalls only requesting “cuddling and kisses” in return for the money and questioned if that actually qualifies as “sexual services.”
“Anything more would be a gross violation of my moral standards, there’s no doubt about that,” stated Harper. He ultimately agreed to defer to the judgment of Carlton County Attorney Thom Pertler regarding whether statements made by him on the tapes are considered chargeable.
Judge Wolf sentenced Harper to one-year’s stay of imposition, one year’s unsupervised probation, a $1,500 fine, a $250 penalty and $85 in court fees.
Pierce requested that a contested omnibus hearing without witnesses be set on behalf of defendant Ronald D. Scinocca Jr., 55, of Duluth. Pierce went on to say he may consider a motion to have the case against Scinocca dismissed altogether, arguing that in order for such a crime to be considered a gross misdemeanor it must be committed in a public place. County Attorney Thom Pertler suggested Pierce save whatever arguments he has concerning that matter until such a motion is actually filed and a subsequent hearing is held. Judge Wolf set Scinocca’s next hearing for 3 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 24.
Ankit Kuman Gharat Patel, 24, of Mounds View was represented by defense attorney Keith Carlson during his court appearance on Wednesday on the solicitation charges. Carlson stated he has not yet seen the audio and video tapes of Patel’s encounter with the woman posing as a prostitute during the sting operation. Carlson filed a Rule 9 request for disclosure, asking that he be allowed to view the tapes.
“Until then, I don’t know how we will proceed,” stated Carlson, who said Patel is willing to waive his 28-day time limit to have his case heard. Carlson suggested there may be “significant issues concerning the issue of entrapment,” and he requested time to study the tapes before making a determination. Wolf set Patel’s next court date for 3 p.m. Aug. 24.
Brian Lee Kaarto, 42, of Superior, failed to appear for Wednesday’s court hearing and Judge Wolf issued a bench warrant against him in the amount of $3,000.
An eighth defendant, Richard Allen Kelly, 60, of Duluth is set for his first appearance at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 17, on the same charges as the others related to the sting arrest.
The ninth defendant, Matthew Anthony Johnson, 41, of Cloquet pleaded guilty to the same gross misdemeanor charge last Wednesday in Carlton County Court under a similar plea agreement as the others. He is set for sentencing at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 3.