Sponsored By
An organization or individual has paid for the creation of this work but did not approve or review it.



Alleged johns have their day in court

In the span of roughly an hour Monday morning, three Rochester men pleaded guilty to prostitution-related charges in Olmsted County District Court, each of them sentenced to one year of probation.

The pleas came during what was something of an alleged johns' day in Courtroom 1, with 17 men accused of trying to hire a prostitute in December scheduled to make their first court appearances.

Instead, 10 of the men caught in the two-day police sting had their court appearances delayed. One man was going through chemotherapy, according to his attorney, and at least some of the others needed more time to review case details with their lawyers.

The remaining four men who were charged appeared in court Monday to request additional hearings as they headed toward possible jury trials.

The cases highlighted both the ease with which prostitution arrests can be made in Rochester and the challenges that come with prosecuting arrests made in bulk.


On one hand, police had no trouble finding men to target in prostitution stings—Rochester investigators can receive up to 30 calls a day when they set up undercover phone numbers for alleged johns to call, investigator John Fishbaugher said at a recent Post-Bulletin Dialogues event.

"The unfortunate thing is that it exposes us to the prevalence of what must be going on out there," said Olmsted County Attorney Mark Ostrem.

Large operations take time to process and prosecute, so it isn't possible to do them often, Ostrem said. 

"Realistically, we don't have the manpower to set these types of operations up and do these stings and that type of thing," he said.

The three Rochester men convicted Monday are 24-year-old Collin James Pearson, 53-year-old Kenneth Gerard Herman, and 36-year-old Travis William Deetz.

All pleaded guilty to a lesser charge, misdemeanor loitering to participate in prostitution, than the gross misdemeanor hiring or offering to hire a prostitute charge they originally faced. Each man had a 90-day jail sentence stayed for one year as opposed to a maximum sentence of 365 days stayed for two years if convicted of a gross misdemeanor.

As with other types of cases, Ostrem said he's willing to negotiate a plea deal in the prostitution cases rather than string them out over a period of months.

By securing the conviction for the johns, he said, it gets a conviction on their record that will set the stage for tougher penalties if they re-offend. Each man also must attend a one-day "john school" in St. Paul and pay a $500 fine that helps fund services for victims of prostitution.


"It's kind of a win-win situation for us," Ostrem said. "We're not going to trial, and we're getting most of what we want."

Police will look for opportunities to conduct more prostitution stings in the future, according to Capt. Brian Winters, with staff time and work loads taken into consideration.

Looking back at the December operation, the biggest of its kind in recent memory, Winters said police found some ways to make prostitution stings more efficient in the future, but "there wasn't one 'aha!' moment where we came away and said, 'This is going to make things so much easier next time.'"

In the meantime, Ostrem said he hopes the December arrests sent a message.

"I'd like to think that taking a big number all at once, 17, should have some deterrent effect," he said.

What To Read Next
Get Local