Woman to Direct Secret Service
by JARED A. FAVOLE
WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama picked the first woman to head the Secret Service, a move that comes after the agency last year punished agents for their alleged involvement with prostitutes in Colombia.
President Obama will appoint Julia Pierson, a veteran U.S. Secret Service agent and senior official, as the first female director of the agency. Jared Favole reports. Photo: Secret Service.
Mr. Obama on Tuesday named Julia Pierson as the new director to succeed Mark Sullivan, who retired in February. Ms. Pierson, who previously served as chief of staff for Mr. Sullivan, doesn't require Senate confirmation.
Ms. Pierson has spent 30 years with the agency in a variety of roles. She graduated from the University of Central Florida and got her start in law enforcement as a police officer in Orlando. In 1983, she joined the Secret Service as a special agent in Miami, and among other jobs, she was assistant director of the Office of Human Resources and Training.
Ms. Pierson's appointment as director could help Mr. Obama combat criticisms about a lack of diversity in his administration. It may also help to ease the concerns of a number of senators, including Sen. Susan Collins (R., Maine), who raised questions about a systemic cultural problem within the Secret Service.
The Secret Service, which is tasked with protecting the president and other top U.S. officials, as well as investigating financial crimes, has been under scrutiny since agents allegedly brought prostitutes back to their hotel rooms last year in Cartagena, Colombia, during preparations for Mr. Obama's arrival there for an economic summit.
Mr. Sullivan defended the agency before Congress and said the alleged incident, which led to the resignations of eight agents, didn't signal a deeper cultural problem. He apologized for the agents' behavior, and an investigation found no breach of security for Mr. Obama's visit.
The incident came to light last April after a Secret Service agent got into a payment dispute with one of the women at the hotel.
Police search for more women in Craigslist rape case
Authorities say Woodstock man charged with sexually assaulting 5 he found on Internet site may have attacked as many as 25
by Duaa Eldeib and Amanda Marrazzo, Chicago Tribune
Authorities say a Woodstock man charged with sexually assaulting five women he found on Craigslist might have attacked as many as 20 other women.
Prosecutors said Tuesday that 44-year-old Charles Oliver responded to ads for sex placed by the five women, who were referred to in court as prostitutes and escorts. He would meet them and take them back to his home, where he would become violent, forcing them to perform sexual acts and, in some cases, tying them up or locking them in the basement, according to authorities and court records. Authorities said he threatened to kill some of the women if they went to police.
Authorities are using evidence they said was collected inside the home, such as cellphones and copies of women's drivers licenses and identification cards, to try to track down others to determine whether they were attacked. Prosecutors also said Oliver kept thousands of images of the women engaged in sex acts with him. While some appear to be consensual, prosecutors said others do not.
Experts say the case highlights the ongoing difficulties of policing online prostitution and of protecting women who seek to sell their bodies from being victimized. The case may also challenge the public's view of rape.
Jody Raphael, a DePaul University law professor who researches and writes about the sex industry, said some men falsely believe that if they're paying for sex, they are entitled to "do whatever they want" to the woman.
"They view the woman as a commodity, not a person," Raphael said. "It's a license to be violent."
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart battled with Craigslist, filing a suit against the company in 2009 alleging that a section of the website was a clearinghouse for prostitution.
A judge who threw out the suit wrote at the time: "A woman advertising erotic dancing for male clients is offering an adult service, yet this is not prostitution." He also noted that some ads may be entitled to limited protection under the First Amendment.
Craigslist ultimately agreed to remove its "adult services" section, but experts said the ads have migrated to other sites. Craigslist also maintains a "casual encounter" section where ads for sex are placed.
Without legal recourse to police Internet ads, the sheriff's office sends undercover officers on stings at least once a week, Dart spokesman Frank Bilecki said. Some ads offer massages as a code for prostitution, he added.
Given the sheer volume of online prostitution ads, Bilecki said investigators have turned their focus to cases involving human trafficking.
"Most of these women are forced into this," he said. "To say that these women are making a sound choice, there's nothing farther from the truth."
Sean Black, a spokesman with Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said a woman who is the victim of a crime while working in the sex industry sometimes faces prejudice from juries who might not view her as a sympathetic victim.
But "any time anyone says no and the person doesn't stop, it's rape," Black said. "The money isn't a factor in this. It's a matter of consent. You never have the right to sexually assault someone. It doesn't matter if you bought them dinner or paid for something online."
There may be a tendency to blame the Internet for society's ills, but the Internet is merely a tool, neither good nor evil in and of itself, said Eli Finkel, a professor of psychology at Northwestern University.
For first meetings, he suggests a public place during the day, and bringing a friend if that's more comfortable. Never be alone with the person in a remote area, even if it's to walk to the car, he added.
"Not only should you meet in a public place, but it's risky to feel like there's enough chemistry there to feel like you can go to a private place by the end of the evening," he said. "Even bad people can be charming for a couple of hours."
In the Oliver case, authorities have said he admitted to them that he was a frequent customer of prostitutes and would hire them once or twice a week.
Defense attorney Mark Facchini asserted in court Tuesday that in at least one of the cases, there was no evidence that sex was forced. He also maintained that Oliver had a relationship with one of the alleged victims, and that one woman's statement to police was inconsistent with video evidence.
Oliver is charged with attacks that took place from November 2011 through early this year, according to court records.
"Some appear consensual, but many appear forced," McHenry County Assistant State's Attorney Sharyl Eisenstein said of the thousands of images and videos of women engaged in sexual acts with Oliver that she said police found at his home.
Police said they began investigating Oliver after a woman came forward in November. A second victim soon came forward, police said.
Woodstock police arrested Oliver on Jan. 28. He was released on bail, but after authorities collected evidence from his home, they said they identified three more victims. In February police rearrested Oliver, who they said used an alias at times.
Eisenstein asked the judge on Tuesday to revoke Oliver's bond, arguing that "no bond amount would keep the community safe."
The judge denied the request, instead setting the bond at $3 million.
Eisenstein said Oliver told authorities that "he had never been popular with women."