Six men accused of soliciting prostitution made an appearance Wednesday in Carlton County Court.
The men were among nine arrested June 29 after a yearlong, multi-agency investigation and sting operation conducted in Cloquet. Each faces one gross misdemeanor count of hiring, offering or agreeing to hire to engage in prostitution in a public place.
Three of the men entered into plea agreements in return for a one-year stay of imposition and one year of unsupervised probation, along with a $1,500 fine, a $250 penalty and $85 in court fees: Daniel Scott Smith, 34, of Duluth, who has no previous criminal record, pleaded guilty to offering $100 for sexual services at a motel in Cloquet to a woman he had initially made contact with in response to an advertisement on a website. Daniel Edward Fitzgibbons, 42, of Minneapolis admitted that he offered $120 to a female in exchange for sexual services at the motel where the arrest was made. Fitzgibbons has no previous criminal record.
Daryl Allan Harper, 62, of Duluth entered into a plea agreement after saying he recalled requesting only "cuddling and kisses" in return for $200 and questioning whether that actually qualifies as sexual services. "Anything more would be a gross violation of my moral standards, there's no doubt about that," Harper said. He ultimately agreed to defer to the judgment of Carlton County Attorney Thom Pertler regarding whether statements made by him on the tapes are considered chargeable.
Matthew Anthony Johnson, 41, of Cloquet pleaded guilty to the same gross misdemeanor charge last week under a similar agreement and is set for sentencing next week.
Follow-up hearings were set for three other defendants: Attorney David Keegan, representing defendant Jervis Michael Stoffel, 54, of Duluth, requested a non-contested omnibus hearing, which was scheduled for Aug. 31.
Attorney Andrew Pierce, representing Ronald D. Scinocca Jr., 55, of Duluth, requested a contested omnibus hearing without witnesses, which was set for Aug. 24. Ankit Kuman Gharat Patel, 24, of Mounds View was represented by defense attorney Keith Carlson, who stated he has not yet seen the audio and video tapes of Patel's encounter with the woman posing as a prostitute and requested time to study the tapes. Patel's next court date was set for Aug. 24.
Two defendants have not yet appeared in court:
Brian Lee Kaarto, 42, of Superior failed to appear for Wednesday's court hearing, and Judge Dale Wolf issued a bench warrant against him in the amount of $3,000.
Richard Allen Kelly, 60, of Duluth is set for his first appearance Aug. 17.