Weeks after South Burlington Police say it caught 7 men trying to pay for sex, the Chittenden County State's Attorney announced he will not prosecute them.
TJ Donovan announced his decision late last week. Now, we're asking the key players whether that decision is the right one.
“Not necessarily disappointed, but surprised because I hadn't actually thought of an outcome like the one that's been presented by TJ,” said South Burlington Police Chief Trevor Whipple.
Chief Whipple is speaking about Chittenden County State's Attorney TJ Donovan. He's the man who decided not to prosecute the 7 men arrested after a sting conducted by South Burlington Police.
“I can tell you that one has lost his job,” explained Donovan. “Others have lost their marriages. These 7 gentlemen will be deterred from engaging in this conduct again."
Chief Whipple says the prostitution sting took 3 months to plan.
The magnitude of the situation in the area was brought to light by 2 crime analysts assigned to the Department by the Vermont Army National Guard.
In mid-June, the Department posted an ad on backpage.com under the "escort" category, a site notorious for blatant ads for prostitution.
“It was less than 2 minutes and we had interest,” said Chief Whipple. “We had people calling, trying to schedule a date."
In the end, 7 men knocked on a door at the Anchorage Inn in South Burlington and were arrested.
Instead of a trial, the men must take a class about human trafficking.
"As I think about, I think certainly that's his right to make that decision,” said Chief Whipple. “At the end of the day, my goal is to disrupt this behavior. It is illegal, on all 3 levels and we may take action. We have now on the John level."
While some in the Police Department may have hoped for more punishment for the men, both parties agree, they are not the real targets.
“The ultimate goal here would be to get the pimps,” said Chief Whipple.
TJ Donovan agrees, "If you're looking at a criminal organization, you want to get to the top. It's just like the drug trade. We've made no progress just prosecuting people who are addicts."
Both Police and the State Attorney spoke a lot about human trafficking, and referred to prostitutes as victims, in most cases.
As far as the cost of the class is concerned, TJ Donovan says there will be no cost involved.
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