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September 29, 2009

Seeking First Amendment and feminist perspectives on an escort's sentence

This new federal sentencing story out of California, which is headlined "Stanford Law School grad turned call girl sentenced to home detention," has so many interesting and comment-worthy dimensions.  First, the basics:

A Stanford Law School graduate was sentenced Monday on a federal tax conviction related to running a high-priced call girl service, punishment that includes restrictions on her ability to keep advertising as an escort while she's on probation.

During a hearing in San Jose federal court, U.S. District Judge James Ware concluded he needed to impose those restrictions on Cristina Warthen after federal prosecutors disclosed she's continued to advertise herself on the Internet as a high-priced escort, even as she awaited sentencing on federal tax evasion charges related to her days as an upscale prostitute named "Brazil."

Warthen gained notoriety when she was busted as a jet-setting call girl who sold her services to pay off her Stanford Law School debts.  She got her law degree from Stanford in May 2001, but quickly began to run a steamy Web site with offers to jet off for liaisons with clients in cities around the country, including New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C. She eventually pleaded guilty to failing to pay taxes on more than $133,000 she earned as a prostitute in 2003.

Under a plea deal with the government, Warthen was sentenced Monday to one year of home detention with an electronic monitoring device and three years of probation.  She also has to pay the government a total of about $243,000, less than the original $313,000 set out in her original plea arrangement.

Federal prosecutors agreed to the lower amount when Warthen demonstrated she could not pay it after her recent divorce from David Warthen, the co-founder of the online search engine Ask Jeeves, now known as Ask.com.  Court papers show the once-wealthy Web entrepreneur's finances were decimated by last year's stock market collapse, and he could not provide more money to his now-ex-wife, who says she's unemployed.

But Ware was dismayed to learn from federal prosecutors and probation officials that Warthen has continued to advertise her escort services as she has awaited sentencing. Assistant U.S. Attorney David Callaway told the judge Warthen has posted ads on the Internet offering "companionship" for $2,000 a night. "We all know that's a wink and nod and what she really is advertising is high end prostitution," Callaway said in court.

Warthen, who has been temporarily living in Seattle with her mother, has placed an escort ad on the Web. The image of her face is blurred in photographs on the Web ad, which boasts of a graduate degree from an "Ivy League university." Brian Getz, Warthen's attorney, objected to the government's request, saying she is a "law abiding citizen" who has a free speech right to advertise escort services as long as she's not breaking prostitution laws.  But Ware, noting that her sentence is already "lenient," was unmoved.

Now, a few First Amendment and feminist musings.  Because I am not a First Amendment scholar, I am not even sure of the basic doctrines that surround government prohibitions on forms of advertising/speech that might a form of illegal solicitation.  But I wonder if this kind of prohibition on internet advertising of guns or viagra would have been imposed on a male defendant who pleaded guilty to evading taxes for prior illegal sales of guns or prescription drugs.

September 29, 2009 at 12:22 PM | Permalink


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If ever a softball was lobbed at Supremacy Claus, this is it.

Posted by: William O. Rights | Sep 29, 2009 12:37:07 PM

I think it is pretty common for a plea agreement to include a ban on the illegal activity the defendant was conducting in the first place.

But here, the government should want her to continue advertising as a prostitute, as it is far more likely that she'll be able to pay her fine that way. She's not going to earn anywhere near as much money at anything else.

Posted by: Marc Shepherd | Sep 29, 2009 12:58:58 PM

She should have gotten tax advice from the Baltimore office of ACORN.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Sep 29, 2009 2:25:16 PM

ACORN wouldn't have been very helpful...she's not importing sixteen underage Hondurans. Now Polansky on the other hand...

Posted by: Res ipsa | Sep 29, 2009 3:36:36 PM

Where the heck was she when I was at Stanford Law?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Sep 29, 2009 6:01:13 PM

Wait, this is the same law school that once owned a brothel in Nevada. It seems that at least some students in class were paying attention.

Posted by: Daniel | Sep 29, 2009 7:12:09 PM

Bill, you dirty old sleaze. I doubt that your groupies in the Federalist Society would approve of such thinly-veiled sexual innuendo (at least not publicly; I suspect that, in private, they would giggle just as much as I did after reading that).

Posted by: JC | Sep 29, 2009 9:26:38 PM

"Bill, you dirty old sleaze. I doubt that your groupies in the Federalist Society would approve of such thinly-veiled sexual innuendo...."

Bill does not have any groupies in the Federalist Society that I know of, but his colleagues there, myself included, don't mind a little risque humor, publicly or privately.

What makes you think Federalists are a bunch of straight-laced Puritans, JC? Sounds like you have some seriously mistaken assumptions.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Sep 29, 2009 9:59:20 PM

JC --

Guilty as charged, your Honor. Everbody in the Fed Soc already knows the story with me, so there ain't no use trying to dodge it now.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Sep 29, 2009 10:03:02 PM

Ha! I was just fooling, gentlemen, and I did not intend any offense. Bill & Kent, I ordinarily find myself in profound disagreement with both of you on issues of Constitutional law & criminal procedure. Nevertheless, I recognize and respect the extraordinary efforts which each of you has made to make our Nation a better place. God Bless both of you, you are good men.

Posted by: JC | Sep 29, 2009 11:11:26 PM

JC --

Aw, shucks. I was enjoying my 15 minutes of minor league fame. Thanks very much for your kind words.

Kent --

Actually, I do have groupies. That's the good news. The bad news is that they're all 50 years old.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Sep 30, 2009 1:20:56 AM

JC: These are lawyers. At best, they stay off the arrest list. Otherwise, there is almost nothing lower, maybe, just maybe the convicted felon and maybe the journalist are lower. As an owner of the law, you owe no lawyer respect. You owe them plenty of something else for screwing with your chattel, the law. They all know what they are.


I appreciated the follow up of this story from a couple of years ago. Even then, I thought for $2000, you better not have seen your 40th birthday, Hon. You also better throw in several hours of Cali Bar Prep and Stanford grade deep philosophical discussion past midnight. To her credit, she posted prices, and displayed all the goods ahead of time.


I can't find her web site anymore.

That being said, hers is the story of hounding and unjust bullying by federal thugs. These should always be counterattacked personally. Seek to destroy their futures. Always. They collect the funding of the criminal cult enterprise and should be taken down if going down oneself.

The penalties here are outrageous. The Supremacy, they claimed failed to file paperwork for a pension plan. Of course, he had. There was no question of not paying his taxes, just the timely filing of a form on a retirement account. $15000 was the penalty. The Supremacy suggests getting receipts for all mail to government agency. It cost him $35 to have his accounting firm write a letter to get out of that fine. The accountants passed on the proposed litigation to see these IRS official destroyed.

Today, that might not be possible. Section 6707A sets strict liability, with the burden of proof on the taxpayer. The Supremacy should have been grateful, the fine was only $15,000. The IRS wants $100,000 for failure to file certain small business forms. And there will be no letters from accounting firms asking that penalty be canceled based on a track record of good faith.


The criminal cult enterprise is coming around to pick up its protection payments. From a sentencing law and policy view, these are excessive, and unconstitutional.

As to feminists. It the rare feminist that is good looking. Much of their tenets come from the rejection they feel, down to new born babies. These have all the preferences that adults do. The criminal cult enterprise embraces feminism because it produces a new line of attacks on productive entities and new opportunities to plunder them. No feminist lawyer expressed support for this cult victim.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 30, 2009 4:58:46 AM

Bill Otis: If I read your posts correcty, it sounds like you'd be willing to break the law. Employing the services of a prostitute is, after all, illegal. I'm surprised. I always pegged you for a law-and-order type.

And, how old are you, Bill? I also had assumed, perhaps incorrectly, that you were probably around 50 or so. Are you really so much younger than 50 that attention from a 50-year-old is unwelcome?

Posted by: lawyer | Sep 30, 2009 12:37:41 PM

Bill never said he would break the law. Indeed, Bill is such an upstanding citizen that I assumed he meant that he would take advantage of her legitimate escort services.


Posted by: Res ipsa | Sep 30, 2009 1:24:10 PM

Bill - If you are the same William G. Otis that Google says graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1968 and from Stanford Law School in 1974, that puts you at about 63 years old. Do you really expect women younger than 50 to be attracted to you? Um, good luck with that.

Posted by: girl | Sep 30, 2009 1:29:47 PM

Girl: Anna Nicole Smith. Love knows not ages.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 30, 2009 1:38:49 PM

SC: Well, apparently for Bill Otis, love indeed knows an age and that age is younger than 50.

Posted by: girl | Sep 30, 2009 3:36:19 PM

Girl: The standard formula is half the male age plus 7 years. If as a girl, you ever decide to skip that, "Let's struggle a lot, and build a life together." stage, you can calculate backwards. You will be seen as a goddess by the older male instead of as one of many available sex puppets by your age peers. If you go for geriatric males, especially one with a bad ticker, you get a fraction of the estate by law. This may be true even if you were written out of the will by scheming little offspring, some of whom may be older than the young bride.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 30, 2009 6:00:37 PM

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