Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Thursday that 33-year-old Justin Glake Beard from Branson, Missouri has been charged with two felonies for trying to hire a 13-year-old boy and a 15-year-old girl for sex.
Police officers from a contingency of law enforcement agencies, working on enhanced Super Bowl prostitution enforcement, posted a phony ad on Craigslist Monday night titled, “Eagles suck and so does my entire family.”
The rest of the ad read, “In town for SB and brought my open and active family … I have a few hours to spend with you and the rest of my fun clan.”
Beard responded to the ad, according to the criminal complaint, and had an extended email conversation with an undercover officer pretending to be the father of a 13-year-old boy and 15-year-old girl. When Beard allegedly said he was interested, the officer offered the pair for $200 for an hour.
According to the criminal complaint, Beard also exchanged a series of sickening emails with an officer posing as the 15-year-old girl, wanting to know if she and her imaginary brother swallowed.
Beard allegedly said he was working for Super Bowl LIVE, the 10-day fan festival on Nicollet Mall, and offered $100 value VIP tickets to the event in return for the sex. By about 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, Beard was knocking on the door of a Minnetonka apartment, according to the complaint, where officers arrested him as soon as he identified himself.
Super Bowl Host Committee spokesman Mike Howard said he has no information that anyone named Justin Beard ever worked for Super Bowl LIVE.
County Attorney Freeman hailed the charges as the first of many Super Bowl-related cases to come, and the success of the combined effort of police in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Woodbury, Oakdale, Plymouth, Bloomington, Fargo, Grand Forks, Homeland Security, the FBI, and the Hennepin and Washington County Sheriff Offices.
"We're watching, we're going to charge them and we're going to convict them," Freeman said. "This conduct, particularly with underage children, is just simply horrible."
But Minnesota may gearing up for a Super Bowl sex crime surge that's more myth than reality, as repeated studies of previous host cities have shown.
Among the more recent was in 2016, when Dr. Lauren Martin of the University of Minnesota conducted a review of academic studies on sex trafficking during Super Bowls. She found that while there is some empirical data that shows it does go up during the Super Bowl, the slight uptick is short-lived and no more of a problem than what occurs during other large events.
Martin also found a “tendency across host cities of past Super Bowls and international mega sporting events for media and other commentators to recycle unfounded and exaggerated numbers of potential people victimized by sex trafficking as a result of heightened demand.”
Yet Freeman dismisses the notion that he's playing to a myth. “Is this a stunt? The answer is no,” Freeman responded to a reporter’s question about whether holding a press conferences about catching a john right before the Super Bowl exacerbated the game's false reputation as the single biggest human trafficking event in America.
“This is serious business. We know young people are being exploited all the time. Prof. Martin’s study seems to indicate it does go up. But even if it doesn’t go up, having the opportunity to make a statement and a stand and do something about this is a positive.”
Amanda Koonjbeharry, manager of Hennepin County’s No Wrong Door initiative, thanked Minnetonka officers for their efforts, while asking that law enforcement apply the same energy to ending sexual exploitation of youth year round.
“The Super Bowl is not more unique or significant than any large event,” she said. “I say that because there is a lot of planning around the Super Bowl that has led to this perpetrator being caught. … No youth were involved in this one, but we’re not always as lucky.”
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