Woman accused of coercion makes first court appearance
The woman accused of blackmailing one of her "johns" for tens of thousands of dollars, a Mercedes and access to his bank accounts was back in court Monday.
Dontania Danielle Petrie, 26, made her initial appearance in Olmsted County District Court, where she faces one felony count of coercion-threat to expose a secret or disgrace. She's due back Nov. 4.
The investigation into the case began Aug. 18, when a man reported to Rochester police that two weeks earlier, he had contacted Petrie via a website that contains a section advertising adult services. He went to Petrie's home in northwest Rochester and paid her $150 cash for a sexual act, the complaint says.
The next morning, the man said, Petrie contacted him, sent him a covert video she'd made of their sexual encounter, said she knew where he worked and threatened to "ruin his reputation," court documents say. Petrie allegedly told the man she'd give him the video in exchange for $5,000.
The man gave her half the amount that day and the remaining $2,500 the next day. He "pleaded with Petrie for the blackmail to be over," the complaint says, but Petrie told him, "We'll talk."
From Aug. 5 to Aug. 13, the man paid Petrie $48,000, bought a 2014 Mercedes and put it in her name, the complaint says, while she threatened to "show up on his doorstep and introduce herself to his wife."
Another meeting between the two was scheduled for Aug. 19; Petrie allegedly told the man the bail from her July 25 arrest — for promoting prostitution of an individual and receiving profits from prostitution of an individual, both felonies — was $75,000 and he would be paying for that. Instead, the man contacted police, and officers served a search warrant that day at Petrie's residence.
Four cellphones were found inside, as well as the buyer's order for the Mercedes. The man's bank records were in the car.
The man has not yet been cited with a misdemeanor charge of engaging in prostitution-hires an individual 18 years of age, the typical result of such an encounter.
It's not uncommon for authorities to choose not to prosecute in a case such as this, both city and county officials agree.
"In this instance, we presented the facts of the case to the county attorney's office and spoke about the severity of the incident, and it was discussed if he should be prosecuted," said Rochester Police Capt. John Sherwin.
"Often times in cases, there are victims or witnesses that may have committed a crime and aren't charged," he said. "You have to look at the bigger picture and what has a bigger impact" on public safety.
"There are decisions that have to be made in many criminal cases where the victims aren't innocent, law-abiding citizens, but that's just the way it works," Sherwin said.
Did the man's job factor into the decision?
"Absolutely not," Sherwin said. "This is a routine thing, for police departments to consult with attorneys. People that are criminals can also be victims; I don't think anybody here is impressed or cares" who the criminal is.
Assistant County Attorney Eric Woodford agrees.
"Someone who is disorderly in a bar but then is unjustifiably assaulted and injured badly, they're a victim of a more serious assault and often aren't charged with the relatively less-serious misdemeanor they've committed," he said.
"It has nothing to do with the victim's place in the community at all," Woodford said. "It has to do with how the case is investigated and the need to keep certain individuals cooperative as witnesses."
It's "unlikely," Woodford said, that the man in this case will be charged.
"We've done what we can do legally and would do for anybody else legally to not disclose a victim's identity," he added, "but we can't stop her from saying something about who he is."
Petrie has commented on the Post-Bulletin's Facebook page that she has contacted the NAACP about the case; she is black, the man is white.
"I wouldn't dignify that with a response," Woodford said of Petrie's inference of racism. "When I review police reports, I don't even know what people look like or what their ethnic background is. Some names can give you an idea, but I didn't know about either of these people until you just told me."
Petrie was first arrested July 25 in Rochester during a prostitution sting. She was charged with one count each of promoting prostitution of an individual and receiving profits from prostitution of an individual, both felonies.
She was released from custody Aug. 8 after posting $40,000 unconditional bail, "presumably with the money from the present victim," the report says. Her next appearance in that case is set for Oct. 18.