In a desperate bid for World Series tickets, Phillies fan Susan Finkelstein tried to prostitute herself, got arrested in a sting, lost her job and became a raunchy punchline to jokesters nationwide.
But to Bucks County Court Judge Albert J. Cepparulo, she's lucky.
"What you did in this case was incredibly stupid, not because of the criminality of it, but [because] you could have endangered yourself unbelievably because of the predators that are all over the place now. [Attempted prostitution] is a dangerous place to go," Cepparulo admonished Finkelstein during her sentencing in Doylestown yesterday. "You were actually fortunate to meet a police officer on the other end instead of someone who could actually hurt you."
Cepparulo acknowledged that the charge on which Finkelstein was convicted - attempted prostitution - is a "minor misdemeanor." Still, he said, her punishment should be a deterrent discouraging others from following in her infamous footsteps, given the "extraordinary amount of media attention" she's received since her Oct. 26 arrest.
So the judge sentenced the Southwest Philadelphia woman, 44, to a year of probation, 100 hours of community service and repayment of prosecutorial costs.
Both sides seemed pleased with the sentence.
Finkelstein had faced a maximum of one year in prison, and she already does a lot of charitable works, defense attorney William J. Brennan said.
Assistant District Attorney Steven Jones called the community-service requirement a "suiting punishment."
"It will be time well-spent by Ms. Finkelstein, better time well-spent than talking to the media," said Jones, who harangued her during the hearing for "appearing in every media outlet available to her" to discuss the case.
Finkelstein got into trouble last fall when she and her husband, John LaVoy, decided that World Series tickets topping $1,000 each were too costly, so she hatched a plan. She wrote a Craigslist ad listing: "DESPERATE BLONDE NEEDS WS TIX: Diehard Phillies fan - gorgeous tall buxom blonde - in desperate need of two World Series Tickets. Price negotiable - I'm the creative type! - Maybe we can help each other!"
The ad caught the eye of a cop in Bensalem's Special Investigations Unit, who swapped e-mails with Finkelstein and asked her for photos. She sent him nude torso photos, and they agreed to meet at Manny Brown's restaurant at the Neshaminy Mall in late October. There, the cop contended, Finkelstein said she was open to threesomes and anal sex. After a 15- to 30-minute chat, the undercover officer arrested her.
In court, Finkelstein insisted that her conversation with the officer was "flirty" but nothing more and that she had meant the ad to be funny, not lewd. A jury in March acquitted her of prostitution but convicted her of attempted prostitution.
Yesterday, Finkelstein appeared composed in court, in a black pinstripe suit, pinned demurely with a cameo brooch. Waiting for her case to be called, she laid her head, her trademark long blond curls loose, on her husband's shoulder and chatted with Brennan about the beach.
Before Cepparulo ruled, she stood and told the judge: "I certainly respect the jury's verdict."
She then briefly addressed Jones' criticism of her public statements on the case. "The media attention itself was not initiated by me. I was just defending myself," she said.
After the hearing, Brennan echoed that defense, saying the Bensalem Police Department started the media maelstrom by announcing Finkelstein's arrest during a news conference.
Finkelstein declined to comment after the hearing yesterday.
But her husband attributed the entire case to "weird, weird attitudes about women."
"She learned a lot about the criminal justice system and the approbation that can be directed at someone that violates unspoken societal and sexual mores," LaVoy said.
LaVoy said he knew of her ticket scheme in advance but didn't judge her for it, adding, "I don't own my wife. She's not a child.
"She's a woman who dared to stand up for herself. I'm actually very proud of her for doing that," he said.