It might have proved embarrassing, but a senatorial duck saved the day.
Former Speaker of Connecticut’s House of Representatives Jim Amann had received a call from U.S. Senator Dick Blumenthal, formerly the state’s Attorney General and a shameless media hound, asking if the senator could participate in a press availability at which Mr. Amann and Raymond Bechard, author of a book deploring sexual slavery on the Berlin Turnpike, were to announce their support of a bill that would hold publishers legally liable for accepting ads that might, or might not, lead to acts of prostitution.
Mr. Amann said “Sure!” And why not? Rare is the congressman who can resist bathing in the waters of moral rectitude. Mr. Blumenthal, as the state’s Comstockian attorney general, had dipped his toes in constitutionally troubled waters before.
Mr. Amann, somewhat like former U.S. Senator Chris Dodd, who cashed in his senatorial chits to become a one percenter in Tinseltown, is into film. Mr. Bechard, author of a book about sexual slavery on the Berlin Turnpike in this “the land of steady habits” is interested in turning his book into a documentary.
A bill legally punishing publishers who run ads that may or may not involve prostitution presumes that sleepy ad copyists and publishers KNOW that an ad displaying the business profile of Madam X has ended in an illegal sexual act. An illegal act must actually occur before the heavy hand of the law dispossesses PRESUMED offenders of their property and liberty.
Many of the ads are transparent invitations to sex romps: “JUSTICE Upscale Companion looking to meet Generous Gentlemen. ALL RATES ARE FULL SERVICE No Hidden Fees Tall 5’8" … Beautiful Long-haired Curvy Italian Redhead.”
Any publisher of such an ad may strongly suspect that JUSTICE’s services are not the sort offered by lawyers or attorneys general. But there is many a slip between a seemingly salacious ad and the act of prostitution. It is the business of police rather than publishers of newspapers and internet ad sites to uncover the connection. Not surprisingly, it is precisely such ads that provide certifiable leads to officers of the law that allow them to make a case against those placing the ads offering illegal services. To carry possible arrests beyond those whose actions break the law is, at least in respect of publishers, to invite the displeasure of justices whose duty it is to uphold such untidy obstacles to prosecution as the First Amendment to the Constitution, still the law of the land -- even in Connecticut.
At a time when Dr. Johnson was reporting debates in the House of Commons, a member restated the doctrine of nulla poena sine lege: “That where there is no law there is no transgression is a maxim not only established by universal consent, but in itself evident and undeniable; and it is, Sir, surely no less certain that where there is no transgression here can be no punishment.” The bill supported by Mr. Blumenthal, Mr. Amann and Mr. Bechard seeks to assign a punishment that is itself prohibited by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which, most unfortunately, protects speech that offends Comstockian attorneys general, booksellers and armature documentarians.
A little over two years ago, then Attorney General Blumenthal sued Mr. Bechard, operator of the Old Saybrook-based " Ahava Kids," whom he accused of misusing thousands of dollars in charitable contributions. Mr. Blumenthal said of Mr. Bechard in one of his philippics sent as a news release to dozens of media outlets, “This individual, essentially, wasted, squandered, misused and misappropriated this money.” Mr. Bechard, said Mr. Blumenthal, “claimed to help victims of human trafficking and distribute AIDS medications to orphaned children in third world countries.” Mr. Blumenthal further charged that Mr. Bechard, who operated four businesses out of his home, had channeled $67,000 through phony firms. “As much as $100,000 was taken from the cause of aiding orphan children with AIDS and victims of human trafficking," Attorney General Blumenthal reported at the time, according to News 8 WTNH.
It is not known whether Mr. Blumenthal’s still pending charges against Mr. Bechard will in due course be dismissed by present Attorney General George Jepsen. Mr. Jepsen has disposed of hundreds of cases Mr. Blumenthal left behind as his legacy to the incoming attorney general. One reporter noticed that Mr. Blumenthal and Mr. Bechard, the man he sued two years earlier, had become strange bedfellows at the media opportunity and wondered whether the senator had forgotten the connection.
More likely the senator, drawn to media opportunities as Johns are drawn to bordellos, recalled his past efforts in threatening Craigslist and could not resist one more strut before the cameras. After all, no one likes traffickers in human flesh or sexual slavery, and here was an opportunity to display one’s moral rectitude, piling up future votes at the same time, a fatal cocktail for the below-average politician on the make. Mr. Blumenthal ducked out before any compromising questions concerning his suit against Mr. Bechard could be asked.