A day after Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice announced dozens of men arrested in last year’s “Flush the Johns” anti-prostitution sting could plead guilty to a reduced charge, her challenger in the 4th Congressional District Democratic primary blasted her “sudden” change in policy.
In a campaign e-mail to supporters, Nassau Legis. Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) wrote: "Kathleen Rice has once again shown that she is more interested in snagging headlines than fairly dispensing justice.”
On Wednesday, Rice’s office announced that most of the 104 men arrested last year in the prostitution sting will be allowed to plead guilty to a reduced charge that will leave them with no criminal record.
The announcement came a year after the sting, during which four of the men had gone to a nonjury trial and three were acquitted. Rice’s office had previously insisted that all the men plead guilty to the top charge of patronizing a prostitute in the third degree, a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail.
“Her sudden decision to allow individuals who were arrested as part of the ‘Flush the John's’ program to plea to lower charges is mystifying and irresponsible,” Abrahams wrote. “It becomes crystal clear that this entire operation was nothing more than a charade aimed at gaining cheap political points.”
He added: "Kathleen Rice claims to be a protector of women from exploitation-- but if this were the case she should prosecute these cases to the fullest extent of the law."
Rice’s campaign spokesman Eric Phillips said Abrahams “doesn’t ever have any idea what he’s talking about, so our policy is to ignore his campaign and let the policy experts and records of accomplishment speak for themselves.”
Phillip’s pointed to statements from the executive directors of two Nassau non-profits working with Rice’s office on a program that will provide a two-hour class to those arrested on prostitution-related offenses. The program, announced as part of Wednesday’s changes, will outline the impact of human trafficking and the background of women forced into prostitution.
Cynthia Scott, executive director of The Safe Center Long Island, said the program, called RESET (The Real Effects of Sale, Exploitation, and Trafficking Program), “will allow us to begin to reframe this issue in the community and help people – especially johns – understand this is not a victimless crime and by participating in prostitution they are helping to re-victimize these women.”
Judy Kluger, executive director of the Sanctuary for Families and a former judge said: "We are appreciative of the efforts of District Attorney Kathleen Rice in helping to raise the awareness of the impact of demand in human trafficking.”