Karen Heller: Blue bombast in Bensalem
For World Series tickets, dear reader, I have offered far more than sex. I have vacuumed, which is not in my skill set. Also, laundered.
For World Series tickets, dear reader, I have offered far more than sex.
I have vacuumed, which is not in my skill set. Also, laundered.
Susan Finkelstein insists she was not offering sex when she placed this Craigslist post at 11 a.m. Monday: "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!"
Her husband didn't read the listing, but he knew she placed the ad. She was willing to pay $500 per ticket, she said.
Instead of securing tickets, an academic publicist was arrested Monday night on a prostitution charge by Bensalem Township police.
She insists she did not offer sex. The police release states she "solicited an undercover police officer to perform various sex acts."
Finkelstein, 43, was handcuffed to a bench for an hour, she said, and found her picture splayed over the tabloids, especially in New York where, understandably, they're more interested in charges of sex for tickets than in the overhyped, overpaid, and overjuiced Yankees.
As for the listing, "I was using double entendres, trying to be funny, creative, and witty," said Finkelstein, who usually writes about disease research for Penn's Wistar Institute. "I always try to get people's attention with ledes" - referring to the top of a news story. "This felt no different than writing a story for my magazine at work."
Residents of Bensalem Township might wonder if their tax dollars are being served. Finkelstein and her attorney, William J. Brennan, said five undercover cops were at Manny Brown's Bar & Grill at the Neshaminy Mall. That's where Finkelstein, a lifelong Philadelphian, met the alleged ticket seller over a beer, Founders Breakfast Stout.
"There was the one guy speaking to me, saying he was a construction worker, and four guys undercover at a nearby table," she said.
Bensalem Township, with a population of 60,000, boasts one of Pennsylvania's 10 largest police forces with 103 full-time officers and, according to the Web site, a staff of more than 150. The entire township has 200 employees. Five cops were required to arrest the unarmed publicist and graduate student, who has no criminal record.
Bensalem's Special Investigation Unit states it's "responsible for conducting specialized and complex investigations in the Township relating to drugs, vice, computer (MySpace)" - it really says this - "and organized crime," and employs one sergeant, three detectives and three officers.
Finkelstein lives and works in West Philadelphia.
Sixty percent of Bensalem Township's annual general fund, $18.3 million of $30.5 million, supports the Police Department, according to finance manager Jack McGinley. While the department quickly posted the arrest on its Web site with the tabloid-ready headline "World Series Tickets nets Prostitution Arrest" - subsequently blasted all over the world - officials failed to return calls yesterday. Prior cases listed on the Web site include a contractor-fraud case and assistance in finding a "cat burglar."
It's a rare arrest where the defendant is talking and the cops, usually quick to gab, are in lockdown.
Finkelstein placed her post in the Craigslist "for sale" section under "wanted," not the "personal" section or "casual encounters," where most of the headlines are unprintable here.
"Was this the most suggestive ad out there, when you see the ones that are obviously offering sex for sale?" Brennan asked. "Is this really a legitimate use of five officers? God forbid there's a legitimate crime out there."
Brennan's hope is that "someone with a brain, in a decision-making position of power, will drop the charges. If they don't, this case will absolutely go to trial." A preliminary trial is scheduled for December.
As for his client, "I would love to get my life back," said Finkelstein, who has opened up her life and Facebook page to the public, adding 800 friends to the latter. "There's been a lot of damage to my reputation. It's very distressing, and a lot of that can't be undone."
Which might make anyone think twice before getting creative on Craigslist.
After appearing on a radio show, Finkelstein has been promised two tickets to tomorrow's game. The tickets are free.
Or, you could argue, what they've ultimately cost Susan Finkelstein is incalculable.