Susan Finkelstein, the Phillies fan whose risque bid for World Series tickets brought her celebrity, legal bills and now a criminal record, was acquitted tonight of prostitution but convicted of attempted prostitution by a Bucks County Court jury.
Finkelstein, 44, accused of offering sex to an undercover police officer in return for tickets to last fall's Phillies-Yankees series, sobbed in the arms of her two sisters after the verdict, then faced the media once again, red-eyed but smiling.
"I'm obviously disappointed that it didn't come out with both counts not guilty," she said. "I honestly believe it should have gone that way, but there are disappointments in life."
The jury of seven women and five men deliberated for more than three hours before reaching the split verdict.
Judge Albert J. Cepparulo said he would not schedule Finkelstein's sentencing until she had time to file post-verdict motions. She faces a maximum one-year sentence on the third-degree misdemeanor, although that is unlikely.
"The good news for Susan Finkelstein is today she was acquitted of prostitution," said her attorney, William J. Brennan. "Unfortunately she was convicted of attempted prostitution, and she is going to consider her options with respect to that verdict."
Brennan called the conviction "a half a stair step above a traffic ticket."
Assistant District Attorney Steven Jones said he was satisfied with the verdict, calling it "appropriate."
Finkelstein, of West Philadelphia, was arrested after Bensalem police set up an undercover prostitution sting Oct. 26. Police alleged that she had offered to sleep with the officer - who presented himself as a construction worker named Bob - and possibly his brother in return for two seats for herself and her husband, Jack LaVoy.
Finkelstein and LaVoy testified that they were ardent Phillies fans and had attended a game in all three playoff rounds of the 2008 World Championship season.
But after going to two games in the 2009 playoffs, they were unable to afford the soaring prices posted online for the Yankees series.
On Oct. 26, Finkelstein decided to post a provocative Craigslist ad from her computer in the public relations office of the Wistar Institute, where she worked.
Under the heading "DESPERATE BLOND NEEDS WS TIX," she described herself as a "gorgeous tall buxom blonde" in need of tickets. "Price negotiable - I'm the creative type! Maybe we can help each other!"
The ad caught the eye of Bensalem police, who e-mailed back and asked for a photo of Finkelstein. She responded by sending three photos of her naked torso, and told the purported seller that her currency was "unconventional."
A meeting over drinks was arranged at a Bensalem restaurant, where police said Finkelstein called herself a "prostitute" and a "whore" and offered sex for tickets.
"What we have here is a unique situation, a different situation, but a prostitution situation nonetheless," Jones said in his closing argument. He said that police officers had no reason to lie about what was said during the meeting.
Brennan, however, suggested that officers were swept up in trying to make an arrest in such an unusual case.
"Was this maybe a little Phillies Fever going [the other] way?" Brennan asked in his closing argument.
Of Finkelstein, he said: "She's goofy. She's eccentric. She got nuts with an epidemic case of Phillies Fever. But she's not a prostitute."
After Finkelstein's arrest, Bensalem police called a news conference that turned it into an international news story. Finkelstein fired back by hiring Brennan and disputing to the charges to reporters.
Finkelstein said today that her face is now known far and wide, "for better or for worse. I'm recognized on the streets of Philadelphia and sometimes other places as well.
"It's made me look forward to the new Phillies season a lot."
LaVoy, her husband, called the episode "just one of those things that brings people closer together."
The arrest was not Finkelstein's first. Court records show that she was arrested for retail theft in Bucks County in 1986, and was placed in a pretrial probation program that left her with no criminal record.
Because she had been through that program once, it was not an option in this case, Jones said.
He defended the arrest against critics who had called it a waste of police resources, saying that prostitution cases are often accompanied by "companion crimes" such as robbery and drug trafficking.
"There's no waste of taxpayer's money here," Jones said. "It was a short investigation. It definitely got a lot more media time than it did law enforcement time."
Asked how he felt about convicting such a devoted Phillies fan, Jones grinned sheepishly.
"I'm a Yankees fan," he said.