WAUKESHA — “Guilty,” T.J. Justice said to Waukesha County Judge Lloyd Carter on Thursday.
The former West Bend city administrator pled guilty to a count of soliciting a child for prostitution, a Class D felony.
The charge of child enticement- prostitution was dismissed, but will be read in during sentencing. It would have been a second Class D felony against Justice.
The District Attorney’s Office will recommend a prison sentence, but a specific length of time was not stated. As part of the plea deal, Defense Attorney Steven Kohn will be free to argue the sentence length.
“We would ask for a sentencing date at least 60 days out,” Kohn said.
Justice is a convicted felon and faces up to 25 years in prison and a fine of $100,000.
Justice is scheduled to discover how long he is to remain in prison March 2, nearly 11 months after his arrest in Muskego.
As the West Bend City Council chooses his replacement tonight, a trial date has been set for former West Bend City Administrator, T.J. Justice. He is accused of child enticement-prostitution and soliciting a child for prostitution – both felonies. His jury trial is set for December 13th in Waukesha County.
Incidentally, West Bend’s new City Administrator is Jay Shambeau, who will be leaving his job as the county Planning and Parks administrator.
Justice, 49, was arrested after he allegedly drove to Muskego to meet and have sex with a 17-year-old girl he connected with through an online dating site. Over many months of text messages, which began when the girl was 16, Justice made repeated offers to pay for sex and sought a “sugar daddy” arrangement with the teen. He faces up to 50 years in prison and $200,000 in fines if convicted on the two felony charges.
Justice’s attorney, Steven Kohn, who asked for a modification to a condition of his bail, argued that since Justice is unemployed, he needs to use the Internet to find work. As a condition on his bond, Justice was barred from accessing the Internet “for any purpose other than for employment during normal work hours,” according to court documents.
Waukesha County Deputy District Attorney Lesli Boese objected, noting Justice would not be monitored.
“If he was accessing it in the workplace, they have the ability to monitor that but outside the workplace, there is no ability to monitor his usage,” Boese said.
The reason for restricting his access to the internet as a condition of his bail is because he used the internet as a means to perpetrate his alleged crime. He found his alleged victim trolling hookup sites on the internet. It is perfectly reasonable.
I could almost see the reasoning in allowing him to use the internet to find a job. After all, while he is unlikely to find a professional job, I do want him to find work somewhere. That is preferable to him getting on the public dole. But as the prosecutor points out, there is no way to monitor his usage. The only way he would get caught violating his parole is if he comments or logs into a site that he shouldn’t be on and someone sees it and reports it. Can’t Justice look for a job the old fashioned way with a little shoe leather and a phone?
If the judge thinks that Justice needs access to the internet to look for a job, couldn’t the judge at least make it somewhat possible to monitor him? Perhaps he could come into the police department and use a department computer for that purpose. Or perhaps the public library. Or even require that the police install monitoring software on his computer. It’s common for parents to have monitoring software on their kids’ machines – why not on Justice’s?
Waukesha County Court Commissioner Thomas Pieper, who ruled that Justice could use the internet, should be ashamed of himself for lifting this bail restriction.
Thankfully, Justice saved the taxpayers the cost of the legal process and possibly severance pay.
Today the mayor of West Bend accepted the resignation of suspended city administrator Thomas Justice.
Justice’s resignation is effective May 13.
“A legal process requires specific steps be taken to terminate an employee including a hearing and a review, etc.,” said Mayor Kraig Sadownikow. “This process would have taken the same amount of time, if not longer – probably past May 13 with a more uncertain outcome.”
Justice had a contract with a 6-month severance payout. “We’re happy to have avoided that and are looking to moving forward as a leadership team and as a community,” Sadownikow said.
My column for the West Bend Daily News is online. Here you go:
The city administrator for West Bend, T.J. Justice, has been arrested and charged with two felony counts — one for child enticement-prostitution and one for soliciting a child for prostitution. If convicted, Justice could spend the next 50 years in prison. Justice has posted bail and is on paid administrative leave from his city job until the Common Council decides what to do with him. At this point, there are more questions than answers, but the ramifications will be felt in our little city for some time to come.
According to the criminal complaint, Justice began texting with a teenage girl in May 2015. The texts were salacious, with Justice repeatedly and forcefully telling the girl that he wanted to have sex with her and was willing to pay her money for it.
In September 2015, the girl’s mother discovered the texts and responded to Justice saying, “no I’m 16, stop.” Justice responded with surprise at her age, but then appears to have continued aggressively soliciting the girl for sex with full knowledge that he was pursuing an underage girl. At one point he even allegedly texted, “your age is a turn on accept that and let’s figure this out babe.”
This February, the girl’s mother contacted the police about the situation. A Muskego police detective posed as the girl and contacted Justice to set up a meeting Thursday to have sex for $200. Justice showed up right on time with a bottle of Viagra in the car and was subsequently arrested. After first denying it, he confessed claiming that he would only have had sex with the girl if she consented — as if that ameliorates the fact that he was allegedly intending to pay an underage girl, who cannot legally consent, for sex.
Where do we go from here? As far as Justice is concerned, the criminal justice system will take care of him. It appears from the criminal complaint that the police did a superb job collecting evidence and the likelihood of conviction is high. Hopefully the next time we hear from Mr. Justice is in 50 years when the girl is collecting Social Security and our grandchildren are arguing over where to place a released nonagenarian sex offender.
As for the city of West Bend, there are a lot of questions that need to be answered and city leaders will need to find a replacement while caring for city employees reeling from the news. If the criminal complaint is true, it is clear Justice is a rotten human being and a predator. It is possible that he was a master manipulator and successfully concealed his rottenness from friends and coworkers. That has certainly happened in the past where horrible people manage to appear perfectly normal in polite society.
It is also possible that signs were overlooked, or worse, covered up. We already know that Justice lied on his application for city employment, saying that he had a college degree when he did not. At the time, the Common Council and mayor considered that fact against his record of achievement and decided to forgive that transgression. Since Justice has been a city employee, were there other transgressions? Were there complaints? If so, what happened? Are there more victims?
One thing that jumps out from the criminal complaint is how brazen Justice was. He used his own phone and name while openly soliciting a teenage girl he had never met. It was either incredibly stupid or incredibly arrogant. While it is possible that Justice was able to hide his hideous behavior, the shameless way in which he behaved in soliciting a child makes it difficult to believe that this was the first and only incident.
As I said, there a lot of questions and it has been less than a week since Justice was arrested. While we must push for answers, we must also be patient as people work through the legal and procedural issues. Since this is a personnel issue with the city, some information won’t be forthcoming for some time, which will be frustrating. And there will be those who oppose the current city leadership who will seek to use this for their own political advantage. We must be discerning in separating fact from fiction.
This incident also serves as another in a long line of reminders that parents must monitor their kids’ online behavior. It is not about trusting your kids. It is about not trusting people like Justice who may be preying on them.
Wow. This is pretty huge news for our little city. Via the Washington County Insider.
West Bend City Administrator T.J. Justice has been suspended with pay and is under investigation.
West Bend Mayor Kraig Sadownikow said there is an ongoing criminal investigation being performed by law enforcement in Waukesha County.
The city of West Bend Police Department will also be performing its own investigation.
MORE UPDATES FROM WASHINGTON COUNTY INSIDER:
Records from Waukesha County Court show a pair of search warrants were issued on April 22.
COURT ORDERED A $5,000.00 CASH BOND IN ADDITION TO A $20,000.00 SIGNATURE BOND. Defendant to comply with I.D. Processing. Defendant to have no contact with V. d/o/b 2/26/99 or her mother K listed in the Criminal Complaint.
Defendant to not access the internet for any purpose other than for employment during normal work hours to access the internet. Defendant to have no contact with juvenile females under the age of 18 in person or by text. Defendant allowed non collect phone calls.
According to Waukesha County Court records Justice is charged with a pair of felony counts of soliciting a child for prostitution and Child Enticement-Prostitution.
CHANNEL 12 HAS ADDITIONAL DETAILS:
Despite the information, Justice allegedly continued the pursuit, writing:
- “The age thing doesn’t bother me as long as we stay honest with each other. I can offer some income here and there for you on the side.”
- “We had a deal worked out once … I’m guessing you were 15 when we first chatted which is fine just be honest with things.”
- “I’d love to explore the Sugar Daddy thing but it would HAVE to stay between us and I’d wanna talk to you by phone first.”
- “We have sex… you get money and maybe shopping every once in a while or I pick you up jewelry here and there.”
- “Your age is a turn on accept that and let’s figure this out babe.”
The teen’s mother ultimately turned over the phone to the Muskego Police Department. A detective there continued conversing with Justice, posing as “V.”
UPDATE: Washington County Insider has a copy of the criminal complaint.