Yesterday U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia announced that former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer will not face federal charges for paying women to have sex with him. "Prosecutors found no evidence that Mr. Spitzer had used public money or campaign funds to pay for his encounters with prostitutes," The New York Times reports, and evidently they decided that money laundering charges were not justified based on Spitzer's attempts to disguise payments to the Emperor's Club VIP, the call girl service he patronized. "On multiple occasions," Garcia said, "Mr. Spitzer arranged for women to travel from one state to another state to engage in prostitution." That in itself would be enough to justify prosecution under the Mann Act, which prohibits transporting or luring individuals across state lines for the purpose of prostitution. But current Justice Department policy says that, unless minors are involved, federal prostitution prosecutions "should generally be limited to persons engaged in commercial prostitution activities."
No one should be prosecuted for consensual sex, whether or not money changes hands. And much as I dislike Spitzer and relished his downfall, I don't think he should receive especially severe legal treatment simply because he's a celebrity, a politician, or a hypocrite. But I've always had trouble understanding the legal/moral distinction between the suppliers of illegal goods or services and their customers. The former would not exist but for the latter, who are the ones committing the real "crime," while the people they pay are merely accessories. It's also weird that the Justice Department wants to leave johns alone, even in cases where there is an interstate nexus and a clear statutory violation, yet insists on persecuting patients who use marijuana as medicine, even when they grow their own cannabis and it never leaves their homes, let alone the state.