Why were johns not arrested in Mummers sex sting?

Police lead men from the Mummers Downtowners Fancy Brigade clubhouse, at 2nd Street and Snyder Avenue, South Philadelphia, at about 11 p.m. Tuesday. Ten women and 1 man face prostitution charges. Two other men face liquor violations. (Yong Kim/Staff)

Yesterday's story about the police department's raid on sex parties at the Downtowners Fancy Brigade clubhouse, understandably, garnered a ton of feedback from readers. Overwhelmingly, the question people wanted me to answer was:

Why were only women arrested on charges of selling sex, while the male "customers" at the party got off scot-free?

As I wrote in the story, police have said there wasn't adequate evidence to support arresting the 50-some "johns" who allegedly were buying the services of the dozen or so women in attendance. According to Deputy Police Commissioner William Blackburn and others in the department, the undercover police officers who got into the party Tuesday night were not privy to the conversations between these men and women.

Even though the officers believed that they knew what was going on around them, having a hunch about something - even when you're looking at a man standing next to a naked woman, pulling up his pants - isn't always the same as being able to prove it in a court of law. If arrested, those men and women could both deny that any exchange of money took place, and who would be able to prove otherwise?

Incidentally, there were other women in the party who were NOT arrested, for the same reason - police didn't have the evidence to do so.

The women who were arrested, meanwhile, approached the officers and offered sex in exchange for money, according to the police. To the investigators, that behavior left no doubt about what they were engaging in.

I've written about several prostitution stings in the past, including what some call "reverse stings," in which police target the johns. Typically, police execute those stings by using undercover female officers who pose as prostitutes. That way, those officers can hear a direct offer of money for sex before they arrest. They get the evidence they need.

Many readers wondered, is it fair to print the photographs of the women, and not of the johns? After all, without the johns, the women would not have been charged at all. To that, I offer that not all police investigations are created equal, and most officers I know would agree that they're not always perfect.

And in this case, we at least know that anyone who told their wife or family that they were headed to the clubhouse on Tuesday for a night with the guys...well, due to the media attention, some of those men might now be in the throes of a punishment much worse than a few hours in jail.