Sun 6 Apr, 2003 09:30 am
Woman admits to sex charges
Six-month jail sentence imposed
By Katheleen Conti, Globe Staff Correspondent, 4/6/2003
61-year-old woman from an upscale North Andover neighborhood pleaded guilty last week to charges of prostitution, after being arrested a third time by local police for charging money for sex.
Gael French, who has been held 28 days without bail in jail, pleaded guilty to the charges and was sent home on personal recognizance until next month, when she is scheduled to receive a six-month sentence to be served at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution in Framingham, with the possibility of a one-year sentence if she fails to show up for the hearing.
French and her attorney, Brian R. Murphy, changed her plea to guilty on charges of prostitution and keeping a house of ill fame for the purposes of prostitution or lewdness. As Lawrence District Court Judge Allen J. Jarasitis read the conditions of her plea last Wednesday, the petite French stood alongside Murphy, hand- and ankle-cuffed, sporting black-rimmed glasses and a shapeless short brunette hairdo. After the disposition, French said she did not want to make any comment.
Murphy said French, who is in remission from cancer, changed her plea to guilty to avoid having to go to trial.
''She admits that the Commonwealth could continue to try to prove the case, and she didn't want to go to trial,'' Murphy said, adding that during her jail stay, French's health held up well. ''She was provided some medication [in jail], but it was the bare minimum. She's lucky she's in remission and back home. I don't think she's any threat to North Andover. She's just a lonely old lady.''
Jarasitis also placed French on probation and dismissed charges of probation violation from a previous arrest, in which she was also charged with prostitution. Murphy said French will go back home to ''get her finances in order'' and get ready to begin serving her sentence on May 8.
Last February marked the third time that French, who lives in the upscale Bonny Lane neighborhood, was arrested on prostitution charges by North Andover police, who began yet another undercover investigation after finding French's advertisement on an Internet site, said North Andover Police Inspector Diane Heffernan. In her ad, French posted blurred photos of herself at a younger age, called herself ''Sara,'' and said she was a ''full-service'' escort who will ''take care of your every need'' for $200 an hour, Heffernan said.
After finding French's advertisement online, North Andover police set up a surveillance on her home and had an undercover male police officer call her to ask if he could come over for sex. She reportedly told the undercover officer to call from a specific public phone where she would give him directions to her home. When the officer called her, she reportedly told him she was with another man and asked the undercover officer to call back in half an hour, Heffernan said.
''I had set up surveillance on the house, so I saw the other vehicle coming and going. We stopped him [and] he told us he knew her from online,'' Heffernan said. ''Later, the officer showed up and she showed him around [her home]. She offered him a price for a specific [sex] act, and he told her he was a police officer, so she was under arrest.''
Heffernan, who was involved in all three of French's arrests, said that French's photos and personal advertisements attracted a large number of men of all ages and backgrounds to her home at 105 Bonny Lane, where she has lived since the early 1980s. Heffernan said while the undercover police officer was at French's home during the last arrest, ''the whole time we were there, the phone was ringing off the hook.''
''She does have quite an enormous clientele. I can't even say how many,'' Heffernan said.
It was that ''enormous'' number of strange men driving up and down the neighborhood and coming in and out of the Bonny Lane home that made French's neighbors suspicious of the type of activity that was going on in her house, Heffernan said. But what reportedly upset some neighbors the most was when strange men would mistakenly knock on their doors asking for ''Jamie'' - another name French used in her advertisements.
Despite her arrest records, Murphy said, French does not deserve to be negatively labeled.
''We disagree with the representation that the neighborhood says she brings a Las Vegas atmosphere,'' Murphy said at the courthouse. ''There are many people that think she's a very fine woman - no trouble - and they don't understand why she was hassled.''
This story ran on page 1 of the Globe NorthWest section on 4/6/2003.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.
© Copyright 2003 New York Times Company
I'm surprised the "lawyer" didn't claim his client was a mattress exhibitor!
Pay a lawyer enough money and he'll say anything!
Bet she never turned on the lights!