ONLY IN THE WORLD-HERALD
John Haas told the girl she was so young she could be one of his grandchildren.
The frequent john then fulfilled a request to “break her in” for the prostitution ring that operated out of Omaha and Council Bluffs.
For that, Douglas County District Judge Gary Randall sentenced the 59-year-old Papillion man, an Air Force retiree, to two to five years in prison.
Haas and his attorney, Glenn Shapiro, had begged for probation — pointing to Haas' lack of a criminal record and his contention that he didn't know the prostitute was only 15 years old.
In particular, Shapiro pounced on a Douglas County probation officer's report recommending probation. Shapiro noted that testing determined that Haas wasn't a pedophile — and wasn't a high risk to reoffend.
Shapiro also pointed to the teenager's comments during her encounter with Haas, one of two johns being prosecuted as part of an Omaha police and FBI crackdown on the ring.
When Haas told the teenager she looked young, the girl responded: “I just turned 18.”
“I wouldn't quite say my client is a victim here, but it's close,” Shapiro said. “This isn't a 12-year-old or a 9-year-old. This is a very mature 15-year-old girl who told him she was 18.”
Prosecutors begged to differ.
Under state law, prosecutor Shelly Stratman noted, it is illegal for anyone 19 or over to have sex with anyone 15 or younger. It is not a defense to argue that the child said she was older.
“These laws are strictly designed to protect children,” Stratman said. “One of the biggest reasons is, simply, 60-year-old men should not be having sex with 15-year-old girls.”
Stratman said there's a reason madams like Merrideth Crane-Horton recruit teenagers like the 15-year-old runaway in this case.
“There's a sick, twisted demand for older men to have young women,” Stratman told the judge. “There would be no prostitution rings recruiting underage girls if there wasn't a demand.”
After recruiting the 15-year-old and a 13-year-old, Crane-Horton had turned to Haas to break in the girls. Crane-Horton is serving 17½ years in prison after being convicted in federal court.
In the Jan. 1, 2010, encounter, the girl told Haas she didn't want to go through with it. He reassured her, then subjected her to two sex acts.
He had arranged for another “date” with her when she and the 13-year-old both managed to escape from the house near 30th and Poppleton Avenue where Crane-Horton ran the operation, Stratman said.
Shapiro emphasized that Haas' only desire was for “age-appropriate” prostitutes. Having done business with the ring several times, Haas never asked for underage girls, Shapiro said. And he immediately cooperated with officers when they confronted him.
“He told them, ‘Had I known she was a minor, I would have gotten help for her,'” Shapiro said.
Haas originally faced 15 years to life in prison. But after consulting with the victim's family, Stratman allowed him to plead to a reduced charge so the girl didn't have to testify.
The other alleged john, Edward Kosiski, is awaiting trial on charges he had sex with the girl. He faces a sentence of 15 years to life in prison.
The girl's stepdad said she is in counseling — and is doing better.
“It makes you wonder, ‘What kind of a guy would do that?'” he said. “That he was brought in to break her in — that tells you something.
“Personally, I didn't think the judge should lock him up and throw away the key, but I wish he would have gotten a little more time.”
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