Bucks ticket verdict mixed The jury acquitted Susan Finkelstein of prostitution for Phils seats but convicted her of attempting it.

Posted: March 26, 2010

Susan Finkelstein, the Phillies fan whose risque bid for World Series tickets brought her celebrity, legal bills, and now a criminal record, was acquitted last night 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 Series, between the Phillies and the New York Yankees, sobbed in the arms of her two sisters after the verdicts, then faced reporters 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.

Judge Albert J. Cepparulo said he would not schedule sentencing until Finkelstein had time to file post-verdict motions. She faces a maximum one-year sentence for the third-degree misdemeanor, although that is unlikely.

Finkelstein's attorney, William J. Brennan, said she would "consider her options" with respect to the conviction.

Brennan called it "half a stairstep above a traffic ticket."

Assistant District Attorney Steven Jones called the verdict "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 Series championship season.

But after going to two games in the 2009 playoffs, they were unable to afford the soaring online prices for the Yankees series.

On Oct. 26, Finkelstein posted 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. She sent 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 police officers had no reason to lie about what had been said during the meeting.

Brennan, however, suggested that the officers had been 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 the charges to reporters.

Finkelstein said yesterday that her face was 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 prostitution cases were often accompanied by "companion crimes" such as robbery and drug trafficking.

"There's no waste of taxpayers' 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.

Contact staff writer Larry King at 215-345-0446 or lking@phillynews.com.

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