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Her proposition for Series tickets got her on hot seat

Tomorrow, Susan Finkelstein will learn whether her 15 minutes of infamy are over - or if they'll stretch into the 2010 MLB preseason.

Susan Finkelstein has been defending herself in the media. Tomorrow she may do so in court. (Sarah J. Glover / Staff Photographer)
Susan Finkelstein has been defending herself in the media. Tomorrow she may do so in court. (Sarah J. Glover / Staff Photographer)Read more

TOMORROW, Susan Finkelstein will attend a preliminary hearing in Bucks County to learn whether her 15 minutes of infamy are over - or if they'll stretch into Major League Baseball's 2010 preseason.

Finkelstein, you may recall, is the lifelong, deliriously devoted Phillies fan who Bensalem police say attempted to trade sex for World Series tickets.

In October, the 43-year-old, married West Philly resident posted a cheeky ad on the Craigslist Web site, in which she described herself as a "gorgeous tall buxom blonde" who was "in desperate need of two World Series tickets. Price negotiable. I'm the creative type! Maybe we can help each other!"

Bensalem cops trolling the Internet for pervs suspected Finkelstein's ad was more than saucy. They arranged a sting at Manny Brown's Bar & Grill at Neshaminy Mall, where, police allege, she offered sex acts in exchange for a chance to see Ryan, Jimmy, Chase and the boys go to bat against the Yankees.

Her arrest on a misdemeanor charge of "promoting prostitution" might've escaped notice if Bensalem police hadn't issued a news release and held a news conference to crow about it.

The story went viral in about, oh, a minute and a half, fueled in part by public curiosity that five - five? - Bensalem cops were employed to take down just one "gorgeous tall buxom blonde."

Finkelstein declined her lawyer's advice to stay mum. In local and national print and electronic media, she adamantly denied she'd done anything more than ooze suggestiveness at an undercover cop, hoping to charm him into giving her a cheaper ticket price.

"I like talking to men," says the naturally vivacious Finkelstein. "I'm flirtatious and outgoing. Women speak in double entendres with men all the time. Since when is it a crime to flirt to get something you want?"

To her delight, local DJ Chio gave Finkelstein two tickets to the World Series.

To her humiliation, four days after the World Series ended she got canned from her communications job at the Wistar Institute, a nonprofit biomedical-research organization based in University City, which had placed her on paid leave after her arrest.

"The events of the past two weeks have been hugely distracting for all of us," wrote Wistar communications director Staci Vernick Goldberg to Finkelstein, "and have marred your professional reputation inside and outside the Institute.

"Your position requires you to serve as an institutional ambassador. You are responsible for burnishing the Institute's stature and building strong, credible relationships with the media and with Wistar faculty and staff. In our view, the publicity and disruption generated by your Craigslist posting undercut your ability to effectively perform these duties," Goldberg said.

"We are also troubled by the poor judgment you have demonstrated throughout these events. We have reached the difficult decision to end your employment as a consequence of these circumstances."

Goldberg declined to comment on Finkelstein's termination, so I didn't get to ask her:

How should Finkelstein have behaved, once her story became a global joke (even outlets in Singapore and Israel headlined her tale), her name a punch line?

"The way I see it," says Finkelstein, "I got fired for defending myself. I guess they think I should've hid under a burka. But that's not me."

You can probably tell from the tone of this column that I agree with Finkelstein's supporters - including John LaVoy, her husband of 12 years (who knew about the Craigslist ad), and her thousand-plus Facebook believers - that this case, on the face of it, is ridiculous.

At the preliminary hearing, perhaps we'll learn otherwise.

Says Finkelstein's attorney, William J. Brennan, "We're eager to see the evidence" that prosecution will present to Municipal Court Judge Joe Falcone in asking that the case move forward.

"For now, all we have is one officer's word against my client's. That does not seem like enough to corroborate his story."

Maybe the prosecution will bring up "swinging," since, after Finkelstein's arrest, she was stunned to hear of rumors that she was a "swinger" for whom anonymous sex came easily.

"My husband and I are monogamous," she told me. "I think people just can't believe he'd be OK with my flirting to get tickets. To us, this was harmless."

If you ask me, it was also testament to Finkelstein's canny public-relations skills.

She worded her ad so that it stood out from other Craigslisters looking for sweet deals on World Series tickets, as evidenced by the attention it received from five - five! - undercover cops.

And when her story blew up, she boldly went on the offense in a way that would impress any crisis-management expert.

"I told the truth," says Finkelstein. "I have a colorful personality, and I'm not going to change it just because some people don't understand it."

E-mail or call 215-854-2217. For recent columns: Read Ronnie's blog at http://go.philly. com/ronnieblog.