Testimony suggests Janesville man tried to expand prostitution ring
JANESVILLE—A man accused of forcing a juvenile into prostitution tried to recruit more women to join his operation, a Janesville police detective testified in Rock County Court on Tuesday.
Patrick X. Cooper, 27, of 2338 Center Ave., Upper, Janesville, is accused of forcing a 16-year-old runaway from Walworth County to work as a prostitute at his residence.
Cooper is charged with soliciting a child for prostitution. The criminal complaint lists two women who also were said to be working as prostitutes for Cooper.
At Cooper's preliminary hearing Tuesday, Detective Erik Goth testified Cooper's cellphone contained numerous text messages to women, encouraging them to join Cooper's “escorts.”
Goth said after the hearing that most or all of the women Cooper contacted were already advertising themselves online as escorts, and they did not seem interested in Cooper's offer.
Whether the operation included more than the girl and two women is the subject of an ongoing investigation, Goth said.
It's difficult to know, at this point, whether any of the women Cooper tried to recruit are juveniles, Goth said. The women use aliases in their communications, so Goth only knows their phone numbers.
Janesville police plan to reach out to local prostitutes who advertise online and offer them help to get out of the business.
Goth said he is focusing on the customers. If he develops enough information about the johns, he will refer it to the district attorney's office for a charging decision.
District Attorney David O'Leary said he would prosecute such misdemeanor charges if he had a good case.
Court Commissioner Stephen Meyer on Tuesday ordered Cooper to stand trial. No date was set.
Cooper's lawyer, in questioning Goth, suggested that the 16-year-old girl was not coerced and could have left Cooper's residence at any time, but Meyer ruled the evidence showed that a felony probably had been committed.
Goth said the girl at first resisted, but Cooper told her “bad things could happen” if she did not cooperate.
The girl told investigators she had sex with men for money at Cooper's residence three to four times a day for about three weeks in December and early January.
The phone also contained numerous photos, including one of the 16-year-old naked in a sexually suggestive pose, Goth said.
Cooper also faces a charge of possession of child pornography.
Text messages from clients included references to having sex with the girl, whose work alias was Tatiana, Goth said.
Defense attorney Josh Klaff pointed out that the prostitutes left the apartment to meet clients in a nearby parking lot and that the girl eventually left the apartment on her own, suggesting she was not kept from leaving.
Klaff asked if the girl described any explicit threats. Goth said Cooper kept a handgun in a toolbox in the bedroom, but the gun was not there when officers searched the apartment.
“That's threatening,” Goth said of the gun.
Klaff scoffed at the suggestion that any firearm is threatening.
Goth acknowledged under questioning that no one threatened the girl with the gun.
Klaff also got Goth to repeat the fact that the girl had told the woman who recruited her that she was 18.
That woman is Erica L. White, 26, of the same address as Cooper. She also is charged with soliciting a child for prostitution. Her preliminary hearing is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 10.
Cooper's arraignment is set for Tuesday, Jan. 28, when Klaff said he would make a motion to alter Cooper's $10,000 cash bond.