Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

New Dooley Spot Accuses Stenger of Condoning Sex Trafficking

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

New Dooley Spot Accuses Stenger of Condoning Sex Trafficking

Article excerpt

CLAYTON * In an explosive new advertisement that began airing on St. Louis-area television stations Wednesday, St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley accuses his opponent in the August Democratic primary of condoning sex trafficking.

Citing Councilman Steve Stenger's legal representation of a "notorious kingpin" in a 2000 prostitution case, the ad alleges that Stenger "blamed the victims, saying it was a lifestyle they chose."

Dooley campaign spokesman Linda Goldstein called the decision to air the ad "difficult" but said the county executive believed it imperative for women to "know who Steve Stenger really is."

Stenger lashed back saying the 30-second campaign spot "rises to the level of defamation."

The ad grew out of Stenger's appointment by the court 14 years ago as one of a handful of attorneys to represent 15 defendants facing federal indictments for promoting interstate prostitution, conspiracy and money laundering.

The victims in the case, some as young as 13, testified they were beaten, threatened and forced to work up to 12 hours a day before surrendering the money earned through prostituting themselves to their pimps.

The Dooley ad draws on a Post-Dispatch article that quotes Stenger as saying, "It's a social unit they chose to live in. This is a lifestyle they chose."

Goldstein called the comment analogous to the "legitimate rape" observation by U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin in 2012.

Goldstein emphasized that the Dooley campaign is cognizant of the responsibility borne by attorneys to serve the best interest of clients.

But she strongly criticized Stenger's representation of a defendant convicted in the 2000 case.

"Surely he could have provided a better defense for his client than victimizing the victims," Goldstein said. She admitted she wasn't aware if Stenger requested his client adopt an alternative to a "blame the victim" strategy. …

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